REPORTS OF STARVING PNG VILLAGERS UNFOUNDED

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, October 30) – A State of Emergency (SoE) disaster team visited parts of Kagua, Ialibu and Pangia last Thursday to assess and report on claims of people dying and starving due to frost.

Joint task force second-in command Major Vince Gabina, Southern Highlands administration acting national function co-coordinator on disaster Martin Pat and Defence Force media unit officer Captain Thomas Kilala were flown by the police helicopter to assess the situation in the affected areas.

Contrary to media reports, people in the affected areas visited looked healthy and happy. They said in the last three months, their kaukau harvests had not been that many like those from last year.

However, their banana gardens were producing well.

Those from Uro village in Pangia said their garden harvests were good. They attributed their deaths in the last few months to natural causes.

The Uro villagers also claimed that those most affected by the frost are people in south Pangia.

Uro villagers also brought out a very sick man whom they said could be dying from starvation, but there was no medical report to confirm the nature of his illness.

Villager Mary Opa said her garden harvests were good except that the sweet potatoes have reduced in size in the last few months due to the cold ground.

Villagers claimed that Nipa district was well placed above the sea level and should not be affected by frost.

They said the reports about people dying from starvation were those who had been living on free handouts and money and did not bother to make gardens for their families.

"How can people in low altitude areas like Nipa and Pangia be affected by frosts?

"These are the people who have been living on free handouts and gifts before the SoE; now that the SOE is here, they are feeling the impact of it and coming up with excuses like frost," a villager, who declined identification, said.

A recommendation would be made to acting controller Geoffrey Vaki for a doctor to visit the affected areas to conduct medical checks on the locals.

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