Papua New Guinea El-Nino Response Bulletin #1 - February 2016

Situation Report
Originally published
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Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been undergoing a severe drought due to the ongoing El-Nino impact since last April 2015. The prolonged El-Nino drought has damaged the agricultural food production system. The dry spells have led to insufficient amount of water available for plants and human beings to consume, compounded by frosts falling in some parts of the Highlands Region. In addition to this, there are several reports from various parts of the country on disease outbreaks and insect infestation in staple crops and vegetables and that has been damaging the growth of food crops after the drought.

This has led to a food crisis especially affecting people who live in rural areas and rely on subsistence agriculture for their food needs. The central mountainous highlands region, where 40 percent of people live, is the worst affected area with further devastation of village food gardens by frost in areas of higher altitude such as Enga, Hela and Western Highlands Provinces. Households across all affected areas are resorting to negative food coping strategies to make up for loss of income, loss of food stocks or lack of access to functioning markets - particularly by reducing portion sizes and meal frequency.

The Government of PNG estimates that more than 2.7 million people are affected by drought but according to most recent estimates, over 700,000 people live in areas classified as Category 4 and 5, where food production has been severely impacted by the drought and may be in need of food assistance and/or agricultural inputs. Of this number, approximately 480,000 are in Category 5 areas and are facing critical food shortages. After receiving the recent rains in much of the PNG, populations in Jiwaka, Chimbu and some parts of Enga Province have begun re-planting staple crops and vegetables, although it is expected that adequate agricultural support, such as seeds and planting materials, are required to facilitate recovery. The precise number of households requiring agricultural recovery assistance is yet to be determined.

The Food Security Cluster was established in the PNG in January 2016 and the regular fortnightly cluster meeting has become a common platform to share information and coordinate efforts on the Relief Food Distribution and ongoing Agriculture Recovery Activities in PNG. The Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) is chairing the Cluster meeting on a regular basis.