New Zealander, Dave Neru, has arrived in Papua New Guinea today to assist with Oxfam’s humanitarian relief effort following last week’s Cyclone Guba that left up to 145,000 people without adequate access to shelter, food, water and medicine.
Neru, an emergency response specialist, was in Oxfam’s response team in Aceh following the 2004 Asian tsunami. His priority in PNG will be to assist with establishing emergency water supplies and the delivery of bladder tanks and tarpaulins for temporary shelter.
“The priority is to act swiftly to prevent an outbreak of diseases and diarrheoa,” said Neru.
A State of an Emergency has been called in the affected region of Oro province. The government estimates that many thousands have been left homeless by the cyclone that hit last week. Torrential rain, the worst in thirty years according to locals, has caused extensive damage throughout parts of North East PNG.Gardens and livestock have also been destroyed, which will make food supplies scarce over the coming months. Despite damage to airstrips, wharves and eight major bridges, hundreds of people have been evacuated from their villages and moved to higher ground.The PNG government estimates that NZ$230 million will be required to fund the relief and recovery efforts.
“Many of the people in the affected communities are dependent upon the land, and the loss of their gardens is not only having an immediate impact but will affect their livelihoods in the long-term,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “With 160 confirmed dead, and so many people affected, this disaster is large by Pacific Island standards, but is at risk of being overlooked and forgotten.”
Oxfam has been working in Papua New Guinea for over thirty years.The humanitarian aid and development agency has staff on standby in PNG able to respond to basic needs in the wake of the disaster.