Papua New Guinea: Highlands Earthquake Situation Report No. 8 (as of 20 April 2018)


This report is produced by the National Disaster Centre and the Office of the Resident Coordinator in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It was issued by the Disaster Management Team Secretariat, and covers the period from 10 to 16 April 2018. The next report will be issued on or around 26 April 2018.


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

• 11,041 households (42,577 people) remain displaced in nine care centres.

• Over 38,000 callers listened to automated voice messages providing life-saving assistance in 2 weeks

• 181 cases of gastrointestinal and diarrheal diseases due to poor water and sanitation reported from nine health centres in Hela and Southern Highlands.

• 62 children in Southern Highlands province screened for Severe Acute Malnutrition; 2 hospitalized.

• Humanitarian operations in and around Tari, provincial capital of Hela province, remain suspended since 28 March, with reports of a new rise in tensions since 19 April.

people in need of assistance

funding required

callers listened to messages containing lifesaving information

health facilities started providing nutrition services

metric tons of relief items awaiting transport

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. Since the initial 26 February earthquake, at least 195 aftershocks have occurred, of which six were of a 6.0 or greater magnitude.

The latest tracking figures available from the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) implemented as part of the Shelter Cluster response, indicate that 11,041 households (42,577 people) remain displaced due to the earthquake, of which 1,252 households (24 per cent) are displaced in nine care centres while 9,789 households remain within their communities. The number of people registered as staying in care centres continues to fluctuate, and the overall number of displaced may rise as new assessments are carried out.

The Shelter Cluster has adopted common definitions of settlement types defining a care centre as a displacement site where people are hosted away from their community or area of origin, and affected community as a community where people are still living within their community, even if displaced locally from their damaged/destroyed home. Two shelter response options and recommended packages have been proposed for cluster members’ endorsement corresponding to the two target groups defined above: (1) IDP household Shelter-NFI return kit (for those in care centres); and (2) community reconstruction toolkit (for affected communities). The Food Security Cluster advises that affected households still living in their communities and thereby having access to land should also be supported with agriculture and other recovery kits, and that this could help promote return of other displaced people.

More than 80 per cent of health facilities in Hela and Southern Highlands (69 of 86) are open and functional, but 13 of these health facilities sustained severe structural damage that continues to pose serious occupational threats to all users. Refurbishment of earthquake related structural damages remains a challenge. In particular, 55 per cent of health facilities urgently need access to safe water sources.

Traditional water sources were destroyed by earthquake-induced landslides and landslips. Water quality testing is already underway, with capacity to sample and test water in sources suspected to be contaminated established in Southern Highlands province. The Health Cluster reports that the results of the water testing of the Kikori River in Gulf province showed no heavy metal contamination. However, bacteriological analysis showed heavy coliform presence which may result in water-borne diseases. The lack of access to safe drinking water significantly increases risks of water-borne diseases outbreak among affected and displaced persons. Gastrointestinal and diarrheal diseases due to poor water and sanitation are increasing, with a cumulative total of 181 cases reported from nine health facilities in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces.

A mass vaccination campaign is scheduled to begin at the end of April covering all children under five years of age in five districts of Southern Highlands Province: Lalibu Pangia, Imboggu, Kagua Erave, Mendi Munihu, and Nipa Kutubu.

Nutrition service provision has started at Mendi General Hospital, Urila Poroma Care Center, Tamenda Health Sub centre and Pimaga Rural in Southern Highlands province, with 62 children screened for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) of which two were hospitalized. A total of 1,240 children are targeted to receive treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). To date, 14 community health workers and 13 nurses, nutritionists, and medical officers (out of 120 targeted for training) have been oriented in SAM management.

Since 28 March, most 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. While the situation seemed to calm for a period, tensions were reportedly rising again since 19 April.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit