Papua New Guinea: Highlands Earthquake Situation Report No. 6 (as of 5 April 2018)

Highlights

• 270,000 people are in need of assistance across four provinces of Papua New Guinea’s highlands.

• 43,116 people (8,135 households) remain displaced in 44 locations and care centres.

• 80 per cent of health facilities are open, but almost 55 per cent have no water.

• Humanitarian operations in and around Tari, provincial capital of Hela province, have been suspended due to the rise in tension and outbreak of inter-communal fighting since 28 March.

• US$ 43 million has been mobilized from the private sector for earthquake response and recovery, primarily as contributions to government efforts.

Situation Overview

On 26 February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), affecting an estimated 544,000 people in five provinces – Enga, Gulf, Hela, Southern Highlands and Western provinces, with Hela and Southern Highlands the most affected. More than 270,000 people, including 125,000 children, have been left in immediate need of life-saving assistance.

The latest tracking figures available from the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) implemented as part of the Shelter Cluster response, indicate that 8,135 households remain displaced by the earthquake, or 43,116 people, across 44 locations and care centres. These figures may change as new locations are assessed.

Many of those displaced and now living in the care centres and other locations will not return home and the communities are in the process of defining alternative areas to relocate. Where housing has been damaged or destroyed, shelter materials and tools are urgently required as is training in their use. Community leaders and land owners have reportedly started negotiating land for the displaced families, to be completed through traditional land and family ties. Assistance strategies should support this process of resettlement where possible.

Landslides caused by the earthquake have negatively affected food security, with many root crops and family vegetable plots destroyed. Damaged roads have also reduced access to markets and public services. The earthquake has also caused new damming as well as resulting flooding in some areas.
Of 86 reporting health facilities in Hela and Southern Highlands province, seven in Hela and 11 in Southern Highlands have reported being severely damaged, and 26 and 21 respectively have no water.

While 80 per cent of health facilities in the affected areas are now open, many health workers have been affected by the earthquake and also require assistance. Psychosocial counseling for earthquake survivors affected by trauma and loss is urgently required, and Health Cluster partners are making efforts to train counsellors. Many children are reportedly afraid to return to their schools, even where school facilities are open.

The integrity of water sources has been affected and are not safe for drinking. Rainwater collection systems have been destroyed. With limited access to safe and clean water, waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea are a significant risk. An outbreak of dysentery affecting 25 people in Makuma, Ilallibu Pangia district, Southern Highlands province is suspected to be due to a contaminated creek.

Since 28 March, humanitarian programmes in and around Tari, the provincial capital of Hela province, have been suspended due to increased tension and inter-communal fighting. Many partners have temporarily relocated humanitarian staff to other locations, including to the Southern Highlands provincial capital, Mendi, in view of the situation. Humanitarian partners aim to resume relief work as soon as the security situation allows.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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