PNG’s Western Province Still Suffering From El Niño Drought

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

PNG’s Western Province Still Suffering From El Niño Drought Fresh water shortages biggest immediate problem, wells are dry

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 17, 2015) РWestern Province has been hit hard by the effects of the El Ni̱o, with most of the rivers and lakes drying up. While services like education, businesses and the Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) operations have been affected in this major dry spell, quality health services are still being delivered to the areas that have been hit hard.

The Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) Middle and South Fly Health Program (CMSFHP) and the North Fly Health Services Development Program (NFHSDP) are still in full operation, delivering vital health services to the people.

The NFHSDP is funded by OTML and the CMSFHP funded through Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF). Both are managed by OTDF and implemented by Abt JTA. The programs partner with health service providers in the province, such as Evangelical Church of PNG, Catholic Health Services and Government health services.

In coordination with partners, the programs are sending health patrol teams to villages in North Fly and to CMCA villages in the Middle and South Fly Districts to carry out clinical attachments, immunization and family planning clinics.

Most program staff out in the field say water shortage in communities is the biggest problem as majority of water wells and supplied water have dried up.

"The lakes and rivers have dried up and what used to be a two hour boat trip is now a six to eight hours trip. In some areas we have to walk for hours to reach the health facilities," explains CMSFHP Health Promotion Officer, Cyril Yama.

"Safe drinking water is the biggest issue at the moment. The well water is dry or really muddy and we are continuously supplying tablets for purifying water and teaching people how to make water drinkable," says CMSFHP Primary Health Care team leader, Freda Pake.

Timothy Martin, a Community Health Worker with the NFHSDP, has been working at Membok Health Centre on clinical attachment. "People are doing it tough down there, water has run out and it will get tougher as the dry spell continues into the New Year. We are doing all we can as health professionals to deliver essential and much needed health care to these people," Martin expressed.

The risks of dehydration and disease outbreaks are high during such environmental disasters.

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