AUSTRALIA TO LOBBY FOR MORE PNG INTERNATIONAL DROUGHT AID

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By Winnis Map

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 2, 1997 - Post-Courier)--- Australia will ask other nations to come to the aid of Papua New Guinea by providing urgently-needed drought and frost relief funding.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made the announcement during Friday's annual PNG-Australia Ministerial Meeting in Alotau, Milne Bay Province, saying Australia will ask Japan, New Zealand, and other countries to help PNG during this period of special need, the Post-Courier newspaper reports.

Downer offered to help PNG seek emergency funding after PNG Foreign Minister Kilroy Genia complained of a lack of support from other potential donor countries and agencies. The PNG government has written letters to 14 countries, Genia noted, and not one has replied.

The Australian government already has donated about $2.8 million in aid to help the drought victims and has deployed three Royal Australian Air Force planes and three Blackhawk helicopters to assist in airlifting aid supplies to people with little to no food supplies in rural highland areas.

About 500, 000 people now are estimated to be seriously affected by the drought and 100,000 are reported to be barely surviving.

Foreign Minister Downer said the drought is much worse than he first expected, and he promised to ask his government to do all it can to help relieve the suffering.

Meanwhile, PNG Deputy Prime Minister Chris Haiveta, who remained in the British Isles after the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, met with several British NGO groups, including the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, in additional efforts to raise more drought relief funding.

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