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Papua New Guinea: Violence in Enga, Hela, Southern Highlands provinces Disaster Management Team Flash Update No. 02 (As of 6 August 2022)

Attachments

This update is produced by Papua New Guinea Disaster Management Team (DMT) in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 1 to 6 August 2022. For information on previous developments, please contact the DMT Secretariat.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Outbreaks of violence continued in communities across Highlands provinces and other parts of the country as the scheduled election period closed. At least 83 of the 118 electorates had returned their writs by the end of 5 August.

  • Law-and-order concerns remain in Porgera where additional security forces have yet to be deployed.

  • At least eight new deaths have been reported in Magarima and Nipa districts and one new case of sorcery accusation- related violence in Nipa.

  • The national emergency management authority is developing a response plan to address the humanitarian crisis.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Violence has continued to occur in communities in Enga, Hela, and Southern Highlands, and across other Highlands provinces and parts of the country (media reports indicate election- related violence occurred in Western Highlands, Jiwaka, Madang, and New Ireland) as the election period came to a close and the return of the writs was scheduled for 5 August. About 35 of 118 electorates (provincial and district) had not been returned by the deadline and have been given until 12 August to return their writs. Parliament will sit on Tuesday, 9 August. After being sworn-in, MPs will first elect the Speaker and then will vote in the election of Prime Minister.

Estimates of people displaced across the targeted areas remain elusive as people continuously move and local partners are unable to accurately count or track displacements. Schools and many health facilities in the affected areas remain closed.

In Porgera, Enga, there have been no new deaths during the reporting period, but the law-and-order situation remains tense. Widespread looting of the district hospital, abandoned homes, and businesses continues to be reported. Efforts have not begun to initiate peace mediation. Only one police mobile squad is patrolling the area, putting the ratio of security forces to population at 37 to over 75,000 civilians. There are 120 troops staged in Wabag waiting for resources to be further deployed to Porgera, Laiagam, and Kompiam to secure and protect state assets.

There are no new updates for the situation in Kompiam-Ambum district in Enga.

In Upper Wage local-level government, Komo-Magarima district, in Hela, 5 people have been reportedly killed and several houses burnt down, displacing residents, according to local partners. The current fighting is between supporters of rival candidates and occurred following the declaration of the election outcome. It is feared the violence will spill over into neighbouring Kandep district in Enga province. A bridge on a key road to Upper Wage was removed by participants in the violence and other roads connecting to Magarima are being monitored by rival fighters.

Fighting in Pessi 1 and 2 villages in Nipa district, Southern Highlands province, continued during the reporting period. Three new deaths were reported on 5 August by the police there. Also on 5 August, the house of the former speaker of Parliament and incumbent member for Nipa-Kutubu was burnt down.

Health services, including the treatment of those injured in the fighting, in Nipa have been affected. The Nipa rural hospital and Koima health centre are severely understaffed and facing shortages of basic medicines and supplies. In addition to 9 women in Enga who were kidnapped and tortured—four of whom died—due to sorcery accusations on 28 July, a woman in Nipa district was reportedly accused of sorcery and tortured and burned during the reporting period. She was rescued by staff of a local civil society organization, but her current condition is unknown.

Sources in Nipa district say that rivals have set up roadblocks along the road into the district to monitor their rivals’ movements. This is affecting the movement of locals as well as the delivery of goods and medical supplies.

RESPONSE

The Highlands Humanitarian Hub in Mt Hagan held a preliminary meeting on 3 August to discuss local coordination of the response. CARE and Baptist Union will share the coordination leadership there. There are six 24-foot containers available to preposition donated relief items, but there is concern this will be inadequate for the planned humanitarian response.

The National Disaster Centre held a meeting of key stakeholders on 4 August to better understand the response capacities and possible assistance from international and national partners. It will convene a meeting of government partners, including the military and police, to plan the national response and develop a security plan to enable safe access by aid workers to conduct assessments and deliver needed relief items.

The Disaster Management Team is drafting a 9-month humanitarian needs and priorities plan to target 78,000 of the most vulnerable and marginalized in support of the national government’s planned response. The DMT plan is expected to be shared with donors early next week.