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Full impact of 7.5 Papua New Guinea earthquake now known

16 March 2018

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 13 March 2018 - Highlands Council Chief Iso Putap leads a camp of more than 600 displaced people. He oversees 19 villages in his district. He has erected a temporary shelter on his land to care for his people but they are desperate for more assistance as the supply of drinking water is contaminated and sanitation at the camp is worsening. Iso also lost his daughter and his niece in the earthquake. Photo/ UNICEF Australia.

By Suausi Vienna Richards  -

The New Zealand Government has announced a further financial support package of $3 million for Papua New Guinea, following last month's 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the remote and rural province of the Southern Highlands.

Reports from UNICEF reveal that roads, hospital and schools have been destroyed by the earthquake, with more earthquakes over the next week of magnitude 6 to 7 and more than 100 tremors.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the full extent of the natural disaster is only becoming clear now, three weeks later.

He says there has been significant loss of life along with extensive damage to infrastructure for water and transportation.

New Zealand has been working with Papua New Guinea and Australia governments, and other donors, to provide humanitarian relief, transporting emergency supplies from New Zealand to Papua New Guinea and from Port Moresby into the Highlands.

This latest funding is expected to meet ongoing needs on the ground, plus $1.5 million is earmarked for New Zealand NGOs with local partners to deliver ongoing disaster response and recovery activities.

“The Highlands region of Papua New Guinea is a challenging environment and the response and subsequent recovery will take time. This additional support reflects this,” says Mr Peters.

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 13 March 2018 - Highlands Council Chief Iso Putap set up a temporary shelter on his land to help care for his people. But they face serious public health risks as their water supply is contaminated and sanitation is worsening. More than 600 in his camp have been displaced by the 7.5 Earthquake in the Southern Highlands. Photo/ UNICEF Australia.

This funding is in addition to an initial package of $500,000 and the deployment of a New Zealand Defence Force C-130 Hercules to the Highlands carrying emergency supplies including mother and infant kits, family hygiene kits and tarpaulins.

UNICEF Emergency Coordinator Andreas Wuestenberg, speaking from the Southern Highlands provincial hospital in Mount Hagen, says a lot of people affected by the earthquake have come to the hospital.

"We're seeing a lot of children with trauma injuries, with head injuries, with crushed bones," he says.

"We just met a mother here who had lost seven of her children and her husband. The impacts are very, very high. We're estimating that about 270,000 people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. They're in need of food, water and shelter."

UNICEF is also working to provide safe places for women and children, along with supporting the Papua New Guinea Government to provide safe water and sanitation to the affected region. 

The affected Papua New Guinea communities  - across Hela, Southern Provence, Western Highlands and Enga - number more than half a million people, according to UNICEF. And they already have the poorest nutritional status in the South Pacific region, and the fourth worst globally.

UNICEF Emergency Coordinator Andreas Wuestenberg explains the earthquake's impact: 

Video/ UNICEF.

Tags: Papua New Guinea, Minister of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Foreign Aid, New Zealand Defence Forces, UNICEF Australia, Emergency, Natural Disaster, Earthquake,