The El Niño climate event in 2015 and 2016 caused widespread drought and frost in Papua New Guinea (PNG), peaking in late 2015 and breaking in early 2016. With three-quarters of the population reliant on their gardens for food security, only 40% of the population having access to an improved water source and only 19% of the population having access to an improved sanitation facility, the drought impacts were considerable.
The Government of PNG estimated that 700,000 people lived in areas classified as Category 4 or 5, meaning food production was severely impacted and assistance would be needed. Of these, approximately 480,000 people were estimated to be Category 5 and facing critical food shortages.
In the September 2016 assessment, forty-eight key informants from all four regions in Papua New Guinea were interviewed to determine the impact of the El Niño climate event on their community, and to identify areas where ongoing support may be needed to facilitate recovery.
Overall, communities have demonstrated remarkable resilience and are showing signs of recovery, with food gardens, cash crops and water sources improving – although seldom to pre-drought levels.
While the emergency response is largely complete, ongoing recovery assistance is required to build resilience to future shocks, particularly to re-establish food gardens, reduce ongoing water stress and to reduce the risk of health impacts from sanitation and water concerns. Geographically, remote and smaller islands, as well as the rural Highlands remain of particular concern.