PNG

Papua New Guinea: Manam and Langila Volcanos Emergency Appeal No.05EA012

Attachments

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In Brief

This emergency appeal seeks CHF 471,000 (USD 377,298 or EUR 304,404) in cash, kind, or services to assist 11,500 beneficiaries for six months. The federation has allocated a total of CHF 140,000 from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to the first phase of the operation, of which CHF 60,000 has been reinbursed. Donors are encouraged to consider replinishing the amount.

The situation

Severe continuous volcanic activities from two volcanoes have affected or displaced 15,000 people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since October last year. The first to erupt, Manam volcano, located 15km off the coast of PNG on Manam island, has registered several major eruptions up to the end of January, displacing as many as 11,000 people. Langila volcano in PNG's West New Britain province has been erupting continuously since 2 June. It has so far affected 4,000 people, numbers that are expected to rise as the situation worsens. Both volcanoes have destroyed or damaged property, agricultural and farming resources as well as affected the natural environment.

This has disrupted the livelihoods of the local people, as food crops have been spoilt and, particularly in Manam island, many have had to evacuate their homes. The volcanoes have also contaminated local water supplies, creating a potential health risk to islanders who are still living in the volcano's vicinity. This emergency appeal therefore seeks to address the critical short- and mid-term needs - water and shelter - of the locally displaced or affected population.

In response to the aftermath of the volcanic eruptions, the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS) has responded timely and efficiently, utilizing their pre-positioned relief stocks and mobilizing their trained volunteers in early warning, evacuation, and relocation and health promotion activities. Through DREF, The Federation has provided the national society with a total of CHF 140,000 to support Manam and Langila emergency operations, of which CHF 60,000 has been reimbursed. Donors are encouraged to consider replenishing the remaining amount as an option when responding to this emergency appeal.

Manam volcano

Following a series of eruptions of the Manam volcano late last year and early this year, the Papua New Guinea government arranged for the evacuation and relocation of the Manam islanders to care centres on the mainland near Bogia. Between 10,000 to 11,000 people now live as internally displaced persons (IDP) in three formal care centres in Postdam, Asuramba and Mangem, as well as several informal centres. The eruption caused widespread damage to property, including food gardens, cash crops, water wells, livestock and the natural environment.

The PNGRCS provided immediate relief during the initial evacuation and relocation exercise, focusing on short-term temporary shelter and water containers for the affected people. It distributed 3,836 tarpaulins and 1,273 jerry cans to individual households using its pre-positioned stock in an operation supported by the Federation's DREF and the Australian Red Cross Society. The PNGRCS also distributed 24,000 water purification tablets and mosquito nets donated by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Red Cross volunteers from the affected area, having been trained in previous years, played a key role in early warning, evacuation, relief and health promotion efforts.

The PNG authorities have yet to decide on a long-term solution for the permanent settlement of the IDP, but have indicated that they will remain in the current areas for the near future. They have asked the PNGRCS to support the provision of semi-permanent shelter, while other agencies are involved in areas such as water and sanitation and education.

Langila volcano

Langila volcano, located in Papua New Guinea's West New Britain province, 200km west of the provincial capital, Kimbe, has been active for more than two months. Since Thursday, 2 June, it has been erupting continuously, discharging lava and heavier than normal loads of ash into the sky. Although the prevailing wind conditions pushed most of the initial ash fall out to sea, lower-level winds are redirecting the ash back onto the island. This has led to reports of increasing cases of respiratory and eye irritation complaints. There is a growing concern that it will become necessary to evacuate the local population as current eruptions are expected to continue. Approximately 10,000 people live near the volcano, one of the most active in New Britain, with frequent eruptions recorded since the 19th century. Instruments installed in the vicinity by the Rabaul Vocanological Observatory have been damaged by lightening, so visual observation is the only means of monitoring the ongoing activity.

On Monday, 6 June, the West New Britain provincial disaster office sent a team by helicopter to review the situation. A representative of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS) travelled to the site of the volcano on Thursday, 9 June, to conduct a needs assessment in collaboration with the provincial disaster office (PDO) and to liaise with local Red Cross volunteers. The eruptions have affected 4053 people to date, mainly in the villages of Aitavala, Masele, Kilenge, Ongaea, Potne and Sumel, but also to a lesser extent in Vem, Galegale, Tauale and Laut. The villages Aimaga, Aipate and Gie have so far experienced only light ash fall. No significant damage to buildings or infrastructure has been reported so far.

Fallen ash has damaged food gardens, spoiling crops growing above ground and drawing moisture from the earth, thereby exacerbating the onset of the dry season. Food supplies are reportedly becoming low as a result. Water sources have also been contaminated, although there are still some sources of potable water at this stage, mostly within walking distance. Distribution of water containers (jerry cans) to those affected has been identified as an immediate priority.

The West New Britain provincial government has declared a level-two alert, noting that "there has been a general trend of a progressive increase in the intensity and magnitude" of volcanic activity. The PDO has estimated that an increase in hazards arising from the volcano could see the number of people affected rise to as many as 6000. The provincial authorities are encouraging voluntary evacuation of the affected areas.

Communication is very limited and is further compounded by the remoteness of the region. Access is by sea (250 kilometres from the mainland) or by helicopter.

The needs

Manam

Shelter

Recent assessments show that basic shelter is now a major need for the affected population. The PNG authorities have requested the PNGRCS to assist in providing more adequate medium-term housing. Most IDP at Asuramba and Mangem are still taking shelter under tarpaulins, and very few families have houses made from coconut or other available local building materials. Tarpaulins provided during the first phase are now deteriorating and need to be replaced. Most tarpaulins are now worn out and torn, leak during rain and are too hot to be comfortable during the day. No agency has yet taken an initiative to replace the damaged tarpaulins. Some households have resorted to using empty cartons (thick brown cardboard paper) for wall and roof material in place of torn tarpaulins.

In Potsdam's care centre, where local building materials were more readily available, most families have given priority to building medium- to long-term shelter for themselves. Most houses are built with coconut stamps and fronds, providing a far more comfortable, durable and acceptable solution. The houses are decently built, spacious and have proper ventilation. Only a few households here are still taking shelter under tarpaulins.

Permission from local landowners to access bush materials, assistance with transportation and other material and required financial support would enable IDP elsewhere to make similar progress. About three quarters of the total population - an estimated 7,500 people - are in need of better shelter. Land ownership remains an issue, and negotiations between the authorities and the local host population are underway to enlarge the area earmarked for the settlement of IDP. This would not only allow them to build housing that is more appropriate and has sufficient spacing, but would also increase the possibilities for local gardening and agriculture. A form of indirect compensation for traditional landowners as they provide bush material at a reasonable cost may help to reduce the risk of future tensions between IDP and host communities.

Other needs

The PNG authorities have been providing food rations, supplemented with occasional distributions by NGOs, including Care and Caritas, and church organizations. Small gardens are becoming common to supplement government food aid. Those with access to canoes have resumed fishing, but many canoes were left behind on Manam island during the evacuations. World Vision has assumed the responsibility for water and sanitation. Ensuring sufficient water quantity and adequate and appropriate sanitation in particular are among the key priorities. While some challenges remain, the situation is gradually improving in this area and, to a limited extent, host communities are also benefiting from new projects. The Federation delegation will continue to monitor the situation in a follow up to a recent visit by its water and sanitation delegate.

The government is taking responsibility for providing basic services in health and care, and education. The increase in malaria cases is a concern for all care centres, where community health workers generally face problems of low medicinal stock and inconsistent supply. Most patients are referred to nearby health clinics for treatment. There is no permanent police presence in any of the care centres, and police are called in from Bogia or Madang to attend to any major law and order problems.

Langila

Families affected are in urgent need of water containers to assist in collecting drinking water from water sources that have not been contaminated. The PNGRCS has already dispatched 600 jerry cans and 600 tarpaulins to Kimbe from its main warehouse in Port Moresby, but a further 800 units of each are still required. Jerry cans will be distributed over the next few days, while tarpaulins will be used only as required. In addition, the PNGRCS wishes to pre-position further stock, including tarpaulins in East New Britain, to deal with an expected increase in numbers of those affected. The situation will be closely monitored, and a water and sanitation expert will carry out a detailed assessment to determine any further needs.

Coordination

Effective overall coordination of the disaster relief efforts has been a key challenge for all involved. The situation has been improved through the establishment of the Manam humanitarian implementation committee (MHIC), under the chairmanship of the former chief justice. The Manam resettlement authority (MRA) is expected to replace MHIC once the related legislation is passed by the parliament.

The Federation delegation in PNG and the PNGRCS have been attending regular meetings with the national disaster centre and the UNDP to share findings and coordinate action. Other organizations involved in the Manam operation include relevant UN agencies, World Vision, Save the Children Fund, CARE Australia, the Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID) and the New Zealand's International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID).

The proposed operation

Based on recent assessments and consultations with key humanitarian actors, the PNGRCS and the Federation's delegation aim to respond to immediate relief needs of people affected by the Langila volcano and to focus on providing medium-term housing for IDP in the Manam area.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

- In Papua New Guinea: Ms. Jacqueline Boga, secretary-general, Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society, Port Moresby; email: hqpngrcs@online.net.pg; phone: +6753258577, fax: +6753259714

- In Papua New Guinea: Mr. Ervin Bulathsinghala, head of Papua New Guinea delegation, Port Moresby; email: ifrcpg01@ifrc.org; phone: +6753112277; fax: +6753230731

- In Geneva: Asia and Pacific department, Ms. Hyun Ji Lee, Pacific regional officer, email: hj.lee@ifrc.org; phone: +41227304260; fax: +41227330395

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org.

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