PNG: Red Cross to end assistance to Manam refugees

News and Press Release
Originally published
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 30) -- The Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society will wind up its assistance to all Manam Island care centers on the Madang mainland in March.

[PIR editor's note: Manam island is located just north of Madang province on the north coast of Papua New Guinea's mainland peninsula.]

The Red Cross and a number of other organizations had been on site since the October 2004 volcano eruption to help government authorities with emergency aid before breaking with tradition to fund the building of bush-material houses for displaced Manam islanders from September last year.

Papua New Guinea Red Cross chairman Bernard Lukara said the shelter project, which saw the humanitarian organization paying villagers on the mainland for trees and bush material, cost the Red Cross about PGK1.1 million [US$377,000].

He said the money, which was provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, will fund the building of 350 temporary houses for Manam islanders.

"We decided that rather than providing additional tarpaulins to the people -- we decided on a temporary shelter project,'' Mr. Lukara said. "And the temporary shelter project is basically providing bush materials to the people so that they can build a little bit more permanent houses or shelter."

The decision on when the affected islanders will be relocated to a permanent site lay with the Madang Provincial Government. "At the moment we are almost half way through building houses for those families,'' he said. "Basically what we are doing is cutting material, buying material from the local people and moving them into the care centers and distributing it to individual families."

Mr. Lukara and his deputy Winston Jacob said the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society had advised the provincial government of their planned departure from the Mangem, Asuramba and Potsdam care centers.

"The provincial government has to decide on what's next because we also know that temporary shelter is basically temporary,'' they said. "Those bush material houses will go and unless there are some decisions made soon on where the people will be resettled -- that is a question that will still continue to be at the back of our minds."