Missing persons: The Right to know
Many people go missing during conflict or war causing anguish and uncertainty for their families and friends. In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, families of those who went missing during the Bougainville Crisis (1988 to 1998) have the right under international humanitarian law to know what happened to their missing relatives.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- interviewed dozens of families in Siwai and Topinang communities in Bougainville to raise awareness on those missing and to better understand the needs and interests of their families
- supported families in organizing traditional ceremonies to remember loved ones and in the construction of memorial monuments to commemorate missing relatives in Central and South Bougainville
- organised an International Day of the Disappeared in Topinang benefiting 13 families of the missing
- provided technical advice to Bougainville authorities on a national policy on missing persons and on an effective coordination mechanism to help clarify what happened to those missing and how to respond to the needs of the families of the missing.
Support to restoring and maintaining family links
With the participation of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS), the ICRC continues supporting authorities to maintain family links of Bougainville detainees with their family across Bougainville and the East New Britain Province. Due to COVID-19 safety measures and travel restrictions, family visits are to resume in 2021.
Support to detention authorities
The ICRC aims to secure humane treatment and conditions of detention for all detainees, regardless of the reasons for their arrest and detention. Every year, the ICRC in Papua New Guinea (PNG) visits places of detention to monitor the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees. We maintain confidential dialogue with the detaining authorities on our findings and the action required to improve the situation of detainees in certain priority detention facilities.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- improved sanitation and access to water in priority detention facilities
- provided material and technical support to prison gardens to help detainees improve and supplement their diet with fresh produce
- improved water supply in Mendi and Mt Hagen police lockups and Beikut and Bui lebi Correctional Institutes benefiting 281 detainees
- in coordination with Correctional Services authorities facilitated an in-service training session for 15 medical workers from prison clinics across PNG and Bougainville.
Preventing the effects of armed violence
Through different activities in our area of operations of Enga, Hela and Southern Highlands provinces, we promoted humanitarian principles to prevent the consequences of tribal fighting with a particular focus on protecting vulnerable people (women, children, elderly), essential services (schools, health facilities and their staff), and avoid sexual violence.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- held workshops with 100 community members involved in fights to help them reflect on how they could act differently to look after their communities and neighbours in the future.
- organized 29 awareness sessions with student associations of Hela, Enga and Southern Highlands (SH) provinces in University of Goroka, with the management staff in Madang's Divine Word University, Kepalam Primary School, Puril Teachers College and in priority areas in Enga, Hela and SHP reaching 6,000 plus people
- staged two media round table discussions in Mt Hagen and Port Moresby, attended by 22 journalists from major media organizations
- staged five drama performances in Enga, for an audience of over 2,000, to encourage restraint and to promote the principles of humanity during outbreaks of violence.
Helping those affected by armed violence
Since January 2020, the ICRC teams have advocated with authorities to support communities affected by tribal fights and/or other violence through relief, livelihood and structural response, helping them meet their essential needs and unavoidable expenditures in a sustainable manner.
- distributed essential household items (e.g. tarpaulins, sleeping mats, shelter toolkits, kitchen sets, blankets, jerry cans, body soap, laundry soap, basins) in three communities of two council wards in Koroba-Kopiago, Hela, benefiting 949 households (5,694 individuals)
- supported the Department of Agriculture and Livestock of Papua New Guinea in organizing five agriculture and 30 livestock trainings in 35 communities in Enga, Hela and SH, helping 1,861 people recover from the effects of the violence.
- provided essential school reconstruction materials to four educational facilities; Yokonda elementary, Kapandas elementary and primary schools in Enga and Tari technical vocational educational training in Hela benefiting 1,650 students.
- installed two water projects in displaced communities of Mapumanda in Enga and Tumbita in Hela benefiting 1,800 people.
- constructed and rehabilitated health facilities in Kar and Pomberal in SHP benefitting a catchment population of 31,700.
Supporting health care
The following activities were conducted to improve communities' access to quality healthcare in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.
- facilitated six first-aid training workshops for 113 participants in various sites in Enga and SHP
- facilitated an HIV/PEP training workshop for 20 nurses and community health workers from Hela and SHP
- trained VBAs conducted 12 psychosocial support groups reaching 152 community beneficiaries
- the overall the MHPSS response to victims of violence reached 5422 beneficiaries – this includes the VBA groups support, the transportation reimbursement etc
- facilitated a training on basic psychological support for 15 heath workers in Hela province
- donated medical equipment/hygiene items to twelve health centres and three hospitals benefitting a catchment population of 1,568,589.
- sponsored five nurses from SHP, Bougainville and Hela to study midwifery at different universities
- donated dressing kits to seven health facilities and to the PNGRCS headquarters in Bougainville.
Support to the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society
The ICRC works in close collaboration with the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS), and has continued to strengthen this partnership in various capacities.
The ICRC has:
- 83 PNGRCS volunteers benefitted from trainings - agriculture training of trainers, family and sexual violence awareness, EcoSec Device Magic, community engagement and accountability, and communication in the Highlands
- donated a Toyota Land Cruiser, 430 essential household item kits to the Mt Hagen branch and a laptop to Port Moresby headquarters (HQ)
- paid the salaries of four PNGRCS staff at the Port Moresby national HQ.
Working with the royal PNG Constabulary and PNG Defence Force
The ICRC helps the national authorities keep the armed forces educated on international humanitarian law, international human rights law and the international norms and principles applicable to law enforcement.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- facilitated a two-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop for 11 police and military personnel
- organized and facilitated four law enforcement workshops, attended by 68 police personnel, in Mendi SHP and three in Autonomous Region of Bougainville
- organized a session on international humanitarian law for third-year law students at the University of Papua New Guinea, with 15 participants
- organized an online peer-to-peer exchange for IHL committee members to share best practices in humanitarian law.
COVID-19: facts & figures
Public health response
The ICRC, together with the PNGRCS, raises awareness in the community on COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus, provide essential equipment to health facilities, train health staff, and share technical advice as needed.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- supported the setting up of a 12-bed isolation ward and three canopy structures to be used as screening facilities at Mt Hagen.
- supported two canopy structures for screening outpatients, including a triage tent at Mendi Provincial Hospital
- donated cleaning materials, personal protective equipment (PPE), blood pressure machines, and stethoscopes to health-care facilities in Bougainville
- donated ten medical beds to the COVID-19 treatment ward at Buka General Hospital.
- Facilitated 156 sensitization sessions in the community on COVID-19 related stress.
- supported six rural health centres and four provincial hospitals in the Highlands with: 13,326 bars of soap, 500 aprons, 450 surgical masks, 1,500 pairs of gloves, 6 handwashing stations, 40 kg of chlorine
Infection-control in dentention facilities
Places of detention may be more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 as they are often overcrowded, which prevents social distancing, lacking ventilation and have weaker health systems.
The ICRC has:
- provided technical guidance to detaining authorities on COVID-19 contingency planning
- repaired and upgraded rainwater systems in quarantine facilities in Bougainville, benefiting 100 detainees and prison staff
- supported eight police lockups in Lae, Mt Hagen, Wabag, Tari, Porgera and three in Bougainville with: 78 handwashing stations, 24,000 hygiene items and 120 cleaning/disinfecting materials, 1,923 pairs of gloves, 240 special masks, 420 caps, 280 gowns, 1,100, surgical masks, 8 thermometers, 190 overalls, 19 eyewear, 56 face shields, benefiting 3,800 detainees and prison staff.
Partnering with the national society
The ICRC works closely with the PNGRCS to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by providing hygiene and awareness materials, PPE and handwashing stations.
In 2020, the ICRC:
- organized seven sessions each on MHPSS and preventive measures for COVID-19 for the PNG Red Cross volunteers in Mt Hagen
- supported COVID-19 awareness campaigns in Bougainville and the Highlands with distribution of COVID-19 information leaflets, posters and information booths.
- Stress-related issues were also tackled during a sensitization session organized for PNG Police personnel in Mendi Province with 51 officers in attendance.
- 60 participants from different companies within the PNGDF, benefitted from 3 MHPSS supported sensitisation sessions on stress management related to COVID-19.
- A COVID-19 and African swine flu awareness campaign was carried out with support of 1,604 community leaders in Enga, Hela and Southern Highlands provinces. Family and sexual violence-related information was also shared with the support of PNGRC volunteers.
- Awareness messages on "stress related to COVID-19" were posted online in various languages – English, Pidgin, Huli and Enga.