El Nino impact

Where is PNG heading?

However, reports from experts have indicated that water and food shortages remain critical in parts of Papua New Guinea, such as Western Province and Milne Bay Province, amid a prolonged drought.

A specialist in PNG agriculture and food, Dr Mike Bourke, explained that large parts of the south had still not had any significant rain since the drought began.

Dr Bourke, who is an honorary associate professor at the Australian National University, said the drought situation remained bad in Western Province where many remote communities remain malnourished.

El Nino causing Havoc in PNG

From the 7.5 million people, 87 percent live in rural areas, and depend on the land for their survival by growing food to consume, and sell to meet their daily needs.

And with the induced El Nino frost and long drought cutting off their lifeline, and school year approaching, Papua New Guineans will continue to struggle to put food on the table, pay for school fees and many other things that affect daily living.       

More rain needed for city’s water/power

December has brought rain to Central Province and Port Moresby but a good supply is needed to help the only source of water and hydro-electricity for the city.   

“It depends on how long the rain will take to come. Naturally when you look at the ground condition there are so many cracks  in the ground and if the rain comes in the first and second day, you will not expect any fill up in the dam,” said John Yanis, PNG Power acting chief executive officer.

The water level as of last week stood  at 114 million cubic metres, 34 percent of the dam’s capacity when full.

Drought update: water supplies a big worry

Dr Bourke said the water shortage became a reality earlier during the drought and was widespread, causing difficulties for people to get sufficient and safe water for drinking and washing. 

This increased the labour tasks for women and girls to travel long distances looking for water, he added. 

Many communities found it "difficult to wash their bodies and clothes" and there were instances of "increase in skin and internal diseases," said Dr Bourke, who is also a senior research fellow at the Australian National University. 

Yonki, Sirinumu “critically low”

“But I cannot give you an exact figure right now,” said John Yanis, acting chief executive officer.

The water catchment in the Yonki reservoir is used to produce hydro-electricity supplying the Ramu grid.

Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands are some provinces that benefit from power generated from the Ramu grid.   

Meanwhile, Sirinimu Dam in the Central Province is facing the same fate.

“The water level is at 114 million cubic metres, 34 percent of the full capacity remaining,” Yanis said.

Bulb onion farmers concerned at decision to lift ban

“We think you haven't proven the farmers yet because the ban was only in force for three months (August - November) and in the peak of the El Nino drought,” says Toppy Sundu from Gembolg, the home of bulb onions in the country.

“Is the decision made in favor of the disadvantaged rural population whose livelihoods depend entirely on agriculture or in the interest of few minority consumers in towns and cities who are working class and business people?” Sundu asked.

Pom chamber of commerce hits out at Tomscoll ban

Attended on August 12, business houses were restricted from importing bulb onion, potato (Iris), cabbage, carrot, tomato, capsicum, pumpkin, peas, zucchini, eggplant, pachchoi/Chinese cabbage, French bean, lettuce and celery.

Agriculture Minister Tommy Tomscoll lifted the ban last week after a severe shortage of bulb onions and other vegetables hit the country, increasing prices because local farmers could not meet the country's  demand.          

“The decision was ill-considered and showed his lack of consultation on such matters,” said Conn.

El Nino ruining garden results in Madang’s Gogol area

Ward 9 councillor Peter Kunou said food security of the Derin people whom he represents is at stake as food gardens are not producing enough to feed households.

"We are having one meal a day rather than two or three meals as usual," Kunou said.

"Usually when a mother returns from the garden, she brings home food that can keep the family going for three to four days."

But now whatever is harvested can feed a family for a day only and women have to go to the garden again for the next day, Kunou said.

Over 67,000 affected by drought in Fiji

The Principal Disaster Management Officer, Sunia Ratulevu, says water trucks and tanks have been sent to the worst-affected places.

The remote Yasawa Island group has received water from visiting ships.

Mr Ratulevu says despite a tropical depression some weeks ago, there was not enough sustained rain to provide the necessary relief.

UN increasing efforts to combat PNG drought

The El Nino influenced drought is forecast to continue into 2016.

The United Nations' Development Programme's Country Director in PNG, Roy Trivedy, says his and other international agencies have been asked to step up the help they provide.

He says UN agencies are already helping farmers in various capacities and will be working on other issues such as food security for the estimated 848,000 people the government says are already in a state of stress.

Mr Trivedy says if the drought worsens he expects those figures to rise.