NGO Worker Notes Severe Drought Impacts In Vanuatu, PNG

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

On Tanna, water tanks are nearly empty, little food production

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 1, 2015) – A World Vision worker, just back from Tanna Island in Vanuatu, says the impact of the food and water shortage caused by several months of drought is very clear.

Tanna was badly affected by the cyclone in March and people's gardens had not recovered by the time the El Nino induced drought began to affect the island.

The drought effects are being widely felt over the Pacific with World Vision saying in Papua New Guinea more than a third of the population, 2.4 million people, are impacted and this figure will grow.

Dominica Leonard says on Tanna water tank levels are now very low and so there is little food production.

"I went in the middle of what's known as mango season when there should be mangoes everywhere and there were none at all. The cyclone ripped those out, there were no bananas in the trees, and coconuts are four times the normal price. They were already struggling with food shortages because of Cyclone Pam and now the El Nino sun means that crops aren't growing or they are growing very small."

In PNG, World Vision says it has brought in technical experts to try and improve long term resilience to disasters like drought.

Its New Zealand programme manager, Lindsey Ruffolo, says they are carrying out assessment of water and sanitation needs, or WASH, using technicians from Jordan, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

She says they want to make more than a short term impact.

"Making sure that whatever the interventions are that are introduced, are not just a short term one-off, but can continue to provide for that community in the longer term. So instead of a quick distribution, looking at where it is necessary to put piping in for water sources, or to drill or produce a shallow well or something along those lines."

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