El Niño – short and long term planning underway

The Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea is already providing aid for communities affected by frost and droughts.

Planning is underway for relief assistance in the future should the developing El Niño be as severe as climatologists are predicting.

Crop gardens have already been destroyed by frost and rivers and creeks have either dried up or are drying up fast, as the severe weather pattern intensifies in the Highlands.

Caritas Papua New Guinea has been working in partnership with Caritas Australia and Caritas New Zealand to aid the affected communities.

Bags of rice and sweet potatoes collected from Catholic parishes in the Highlands have been distributed to these communities.

In an interview last month, the General Secretary for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Fr Victor Roche, promised that K20,000 would be given as assistance aid for the victims of frost in the Highlands.

“An El Niño has the potential to trigger a regional humanitarian emergency,” says Sune Gudnitz, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Regional Office for the Pacific.

“We estimate as many as 4.1 million people are at risk from water shortages, food insecurity and disease across the Pacific.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Fiji, Osnat Lubrani says climatologists are now unanimous in predicting that we are heading for a strong to severe El Niño event in the coming months.

“Some modelling is now suggesting this El Niño could be as severe as the event in 1997/98 which is the worst on record and brought severe drought to PNG and Fiji.”

The Catholic dioceses of Mt Hagen, Wabag, Mendi and Kundiawa met recently in the provincial capital of the Western Highlands Province to discuss and establish short and long term plans to guide relief assistance efforts.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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