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Simbu airport and hospital closed, water supply cut off

By Mohammad Bashir PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 19, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), populous Simbu Province’s capital Kundiawa is in dire straits.

The only airport to the populous province has been closed for several months, the water supply system has been switched off also for the past five months while the general hospital has been closed for the past three weeks.

The general hospital has been attending only to emergency cases and carting water from the Wara Simbu river while the rest of the town residents have been forced to drive or walk down to the same river for daily water needs. Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel, the Kundiawa backpackers and the Kundiawa hotel have also had to cart water which they have been rationing. As a result, guests such as this reporter was forced to go without water for two days last weekend. The Gulf Isapea team, who stayed at the Mt Wilhelm Tourists hotel and played the Kongo Coffee Simbu Warriors last Sunday, also faced the same situation.

An inspection of the Kundiawa airport tarmac and runaway revealed it was in top notch but it is not known why Air Niugini has had to stop its flights since vandals broke the perimeter fence towards the end of the runaway to take short cuts to the other side.

Business houses in the town have also been forced to cart water from the rivers and there is no sign of the situation abating while Kamaneku and Yongomugl tribesmen who own the source of the water continue to fight in Port Moresby for a 6.8 million kina [US$3 million] compensation claim.

Kundiawa Chamber of Commerce president and businessman Gerard Philips said it has been terrible trying to operate without water, air services and the hospital.

"People are dying in the hospital while Air Niugini has chosen not to operate its services to Kundiawa, forcing inbound and outgoing passengers to drive to and from Goroka and Mt Hagen to catch flights or return home," he said.

Mr. Philips, who is also a pilot and who used to operate the Trans Niugini Airway (TNA), said the airport was perfect except the holes cut by vandals on the perimeter fence.

National Airport Corporation CEO Joe Kintau said last month that he had already approved a contractor to fix the fence but to date, no work has started.

While the hospital closure has been attributed to the water woes, constant changes in the CEO and board of management by the Department of Health has resulted in a massive mismanagement of funds.

While a national court order has reinstated the former board, the situation on the ground is hell because there is infighting, threats and abuse on incumbents Sr. Opha Tugo from assuming her job after returning from a Masters course in Perth, Australia.

Mr. Philips has also been charged with allegedly discharging a firearm near Sr. Tugo’s house to disperse a group of men who had gone there to break into her house.

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