Papua New Guinea: Drought - UN Resident Coordinator’s Office Situation Report No. 3 (as of 22 February 2016)

Situation Report
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  • The 2015–16 El Niño has reached its peak towards the end of 2015 and continues its gradual decline. The impact and after-effect on people and their livelihood remains critical.

  • According to most recent estimates, more than 700,000 people live in areas classified as Category 4 and 5, where food production has been severely impacted and may be in need of food assistance and/or agricultural inputs. Of these, approximately 480,000 people are in Category 5 areas and continue facing critical food shortages

  • In January and February, many areas in the Highlands and Momase regions have received rains. This has resulted in landslides and floods as sloped areas become unstable due to water saturation and swollen rivers have burst its banks. Areas along the southern coastal provinces and islands continue to experience lower than average rainfall.

  • The Government of PNG continues to respond to the needs of affected populations in a decentralised manner through relief activities of local Members of Parliament.

  • Priority needs include food, agricultural recovery and water support. Areas continuing to experience high levels of food insecurity include remote Western Province, inland Gulf Province, high-altitude areas in highland provinces as well as highland fringe locations.

  • With many severely affected communities living in remote areas, logistics remains a key issue.

Situation Overview

The 2015–16 El Niño continues its gradual decline although strong El Niño conditions continued in January 2016. El Niño has probably reached its peak towards the end of 2015 with a highly likelihood (96% chance) to continue over the coming season (February– April 2016).

Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50% have been followed by a neutral year, and 40% have been followed by La Niña. International climate models suggest neutral is most likely for the second half of the year. However, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, La Niña in 2016 cannot be ruled out, and a repeat El Niño appears unlikely.

While Papua New Guinea Rainfall Estimate (8 Jan – 7 Feb 2016) (FireWatch PNG) (PNG) has experienced below to well below normal rainfall over four of the past six months, normal or below normal rainfall is forecasted for PNG over the next 3 months (NIWA). Estimates of rainfall from January to February indicate that numerous parts of the country have received significant amounts of rain particularly in the Highlands and Momase regions.

Current assessments of locations that remain impacted by drought-induced conditions include remote Western Province, inland Gulf Province high-altitude areas in highland provinces as well as highland fringe locations. These estimates will be further corroborated by an ongoing remote food security assessment to map food insecurity as well as planned field assessments to particularly impacted locations.

As many affected communities live in particularly inaccessible areas which can only be reached by foot or air, the logistics sector is working closely with the National Disaster Centre (NDC) and specific provincial authorities to overcome logistical challenges associated with distribution of relief with the support of private sector.

In addition to earlier relief items supplied by the PNG Government in highly impacted communities, local Members of Parliament in several locations (Morobe and Milne Bay Provinces) have provided their electorate with food relief by accessing their District Service Improvement Programme funding.
Many partners continue undertaking agricultural recovery support activities. These include capacity building on water conservation, drought adaptation, small-scale irrigation techniques and conservation agriculture/farming; distribution of agricultural kits, planting materials, and agricultural drought mitigation messages; and planned implementation of agricultural resilience support packages.