History of Papua New Guinea and occupied West PNG|
7 January 1998
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998 16:24:27 -0500
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: PNG: 25% face starvation (SCMP)
25% of population face starvation in drought
From Agence France-Presse,
in the South China Morning Post
7 January 1998
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Sydney -
More than a quarter of Papua New Guinea's population is facing
starvation because of the country's drought and the worst is yet to
come, according to new Australian research.
In December, the number of people badly affected by the drought
doubled to more than one million from three months earlier, the
Australian Agency for International Development says in a report due
to be released tomorrow.
One of the report's authors, who released details yesterday, said the
figure would jump again, with the population of four million facing
worse conditions in the next two months. "The worst is about to
happen, " said Mike Bourke, an agronomist at Australian National
Mr Bourke also backed up earlier reports that the crisis had been
aggravated by bungled handling by the Government.
He said much of the food bought by the administration for drought
relief had been kept in provincial capitals and away from the worst
The Government budgeted money to buy the food, Mr Bourke said, but had
not allocated money to transport it to areas in need.
The ranks of the worst affected, those now reliant on foraging for
wild food for their survival, swelled from 98,000 in September to
261,000 last month, according to the report.
Those numbers are forecast to more than double to 540,000 people next
However, the Pacific islands had received some rain in the last few
months, allowing people in rural areas who relied on subsistence
farming for much of their food to plant crops such as sweet potatoes,
Mr Bourke said.
But those crops would not be harvestable until May at the earliest, he
said, and could wither if rural areas did not receive more rain in the
"The expectation at the moment is that normal rainfall will return in
May. But if there's no follow-up rain in the next few months those
crops will fail. "
The Australian aid agency has been feeding about 60,000 people
affected by the drought. But the agency had focused its efforts on
areas accessible by air, Mr Bourke said, and much more help was
The report urges Australia to ship potato and maize seedlings to its
northern neighbour. Both those crops would be quicker to reach harvest
than those usually planted in the drought-hit areas.
The drought survey was funded by the Australian Agency for
International Development and commissioned by the Papua New Guinea
It was carried out by Australian research teams during a three-week
trip to the country late last year.
Copyright 1998 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.