Report on Drought Impact Assessment of the Schouten Islands, East Sepik Province, PNG (15 – 19 Feb 2016)
The Schouten Islands are a group of small volcanic islands, located 50 to 60 km off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea in East Sepik Province. Covering approximately 50 km2, the islands have a total population of approximately 6,000 people. In late January whilst preparing its East Sepik drought response, Oxfam received reports about food and water shortages in the islands from Wewak based church groups, local NGO’s and government officials. These reports indicated the impact of the drought was greater in the islands than areas in the mainland that had previously been assessed. In response a team undertook multi sector impact assessments in 5 of the 6 Schouten Islands from 15th to 19th February.
The current drought continues to have a significant impact on all the islands. Despite the return of rain in late 2015, the amount of rainfall is significantly less than normal. In the more remote, difficult to access rocky islands of Wei, Kadovar and Blup Blup in the eastern part of the group access to fresh water is severely restricted, food is in very short supply and cases of malnutrition are increasing. Based on the PNG government drought severity categories the islands are assessed as being category 4.
Unless action is taken to address the issues being faced by the populations of these islands the situation will continue to worsen and is likely to reach drought severity category 5. An integrated package of WASH, food security and health interventions is necessary to minimise the ongoing impacts of the current El Nino drought, to halt the decline in the health of the population and to facilitate medium to long term recovery from the combined effects of the current drought and the next dry season.