UN helps Papua New Guinea in deadly landslide

Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
 World body on Tuesday said that to assist authorities in Papua New Guinea  with search and rescue efforts 4 days after the massive landslide in Enga province, where some 2,000 people are feared dead and accessing survivors remains a challenge.

UN Country Team said on Tuesday that 6 bodies have been recovered so far and the number is expected to increase, the.

The total affected population, including those in need of possible evacuation and relocation, has been estimated at 7,849 people, or 1,427 households, with most under the age of 16.

A total of 150 structures are estimated to have been buried.

The team noted that security in the remote northern province is affected by tribal fighting aid delivery currently is not directly threatened.

The UNCT reported that a bridge on one of the main thoroughfares in the mountainous area collapsed on Tuesday complicatied access and disrupting communication between Enga and the rest of the region.

The alternative road to Enga is through another highway which can take up to three more hours, so the Defense Force is (authorities are?) examining solutions to fix the bridge as soon as possible.

International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday that rescue efforts are complicated by fears that the waterlogged ground could shift again, and as heavy rains continue,

Itayi Viriri, IOM regional spokesperson for Asia and the Pacific was speaking via Zoom from Bangkok on Tuesday said “We don’t want a disaster on top of the current one,”.

The landslide occurred at 3 AM on Friday, local time, “when most people were probably sleeping”, he told journalists in Geneva, burying homes, infrastructure and farmland under up to eight metres of soil and debris.

“A lot of the people who have been affected by this landslide actually moved to this area after escaping tribal conflicts in other parts of the province of Enga. So these are people who are already displaced who are now having to move to other locations,” he added.

IOM warned that with so many bodies still to be recovered from beneath the rubble, concerns arise over whether underground water flowing down the mountain will contaminate local drinking water sources.

“What is needed now, obviously, is access to clean water; quite a lot of the water that normally the community would access is already under rubble,” Mr. Viriri said.

“So, providing that along with, food, of course, clothing, shelter items, kitchen utensils, anything that will try and alleviate the hardship that the people are facing right now.”

The National Disaster Centre has written to the UN Resident Coordinator in PNG to request international assistance.

All partners are urged to collaborate and coordinate assistance through the Centre and provincial disaster management bodies.

Immediate needs include clean water, food, clothing, shelter items, kitchen utensils, medicine and hygiene kits and psychosocial support. Provincial authorities have also requested the international community to immediately deploy geotechnical engineers to carry out a geohazard assessment.

UN has been supporting the authorities since the onset of the disaster, including in the search and retrieval operations, establishment of emergency centres, and with initial and immediate needs assessments.

IOM and the UNDP staff are on the ground with the UN Humanitarian Coordination Advisor.

UN is coordinating the response efforts of all partners, both at the national and provincial levels, in addition to supporting the Government in addressing immediate needs.

IOM, UNDP, the UNICEF and UNFPA and UN Women will provide relief supplies and psychosocial support, in coordination with the local emergency response team.

UNICEF is intensifying its emergency response and has so far distributed a quantity of hygiene and dignity kits, containing buckets, jerrycans and soap as well as reusable sanitary pads, multipurpose cloth and other items which had been prepositioned with the local Provincial Health Authority.

UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney said “We are working closely with Papua New Guinean authorities and community organizations to provide vital support to the survivors of this terrible disaster,”.

She added “It’s now clear that over 40 per cent of those impacted are children under the age of 16 who have been deeply traumatised by the loss of their families, homes, and livelihoods.”

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