Concerns raised over safety of Hela children, women

Amidst the recent reports of post-earthquake violence and tribal fights in Tari, Hela Province, concerns have been raised over the welfare and safety of women and children who have been displaced or are homeless following the disaster.

The Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC), a sectoral committee of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC), is appealing to community leaders, tribal leaders and individuals, including men, to put an end to the fighting and pursue conflict resolution so that much needed humanitarian support and government assistance can continue into the province.

According to reports on the ground, displaced women and children who have been traumatised by the earthquake disaster have been greatly affected and have become further displaced after tribal fights erupted in parts of Tari.

“Most people have suffered losses of loved ones, homes, gardens, livestock and other properties and especially for women and children, they are in constant fear and anxiety of having to lose their lives or suffer serious harm like physical and sexual violence,” says FSVAC National Coordinator Marcia Kalinoe.

She said women, children and elderly people are the most affected in any disaster and are vulnerable, putting up with harsh living conditions like lack of proper shelter, clean water and poor sanitation, lack of proper nutrition and maternal and pediatric care.

Ms Kalinoe says the safety and emotional wellbeing and welfare of the women and children, especially at this time, is of paramount importance and authorities should act immediately to ensure that this happens by addressing the issue of tribal fights and the general lawlessness so relief efforts can also continue to the most affected areas.

FSVAC is appealing to Hela leaders and in particular the tribal leaders to resolve issues peacefully and put an end to fighting and for responsible government authorities to work together with provincial counterparts, community leaders, organisations and churches to prioritise on establishing safety mechanisms or community support systems and safety zones.

This should include counseling services for displaced quake survivors to avoid possible re-victimisation of the victims and restore normalcy to the province.

The CIMC committee is also calling on men and women in the affected areas to start thinking seriously about promoting safer communities and strengthening family unity.

Quake survivors who have become further victimised by tribal fights in the area, and are in need of counseling, can call the 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain 71508000.

(File pic of security forces in Hela Province)

Press release