PORT MORESBY – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with CARE International and provincial authorities, begins food distributions today in the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea, which has experienced drought and periodic frost conditions since 2015. In two of the most affected provinces —Enga and Hela — 25,400 households will receive the first 70 kg ration of fortified rice lasting six weeks. WFP plans to reach 180,000 people in urgent need of food assistance in the country.
“We have seen positive and close cooperation between the Government, with UN partners working as one, along with the humanitarian community and the private sector, all pulling together to respond to the food needs of those affected by extreme weather related to El Niño,” said WFP Emergency Coordinator, Mats Persson. “WFP is here to complement local efforts at a time when needs have significantly increased, and local capacities are becoming exhausted.”
Funding to extend the operation remains limited. The distributions beginning today are planned to continue for three months, but funding is still needed to complete the next cycle of distributions.
In Western Province, another area severely impacted by the drought, WFP has supported the local government through technical support for ongoing airlifts of fortified rice donated to the government by the private sector. Through that operation, WFP has been helping the provincial authorities provide food for 28,401 severely food insecure people. WFP will continue to support these communities with food for a third month of distributions if the severe situation persists.
Over the past year, Papua New Guinea has suffered from prolonged drought and repeated episodes of frost, both of which have been correlated with El Niño. Unfavourable weather conditions have hampered the ability of many families to harvest staple food crops such as sweet potato (kaukau) for their families.
At the Government’s request, WFP conducted an assessment from January to February 2016 and determined that 180,000 people were severely food insecure in the country. Most of these are in remote villages, for which access is logistically challenging and costly. WFP has been working with the Government, humanitarian partners and United Nations agencies to evaluate needs and support a holistic emergency response.
“We know that the food security situation may evolve over the upcoming months in areas such as the Highlands, where crops may be ready for harvest by late August or early September. We will continues to assess where the hungriest people in the Highlands and Lowlands Regions live and the best ways to reach them,” said Persson.
WFP relies entirely on voluntary funding from governments, companies and private individuals. The cost of the three month operation designed to support the government response to the drought is US$13 million. WFP thanks the governments of Japan, the European Union, and the U.S. as well as OCHA, the UN agency which coordinates all UN humanitarian operations, for their generous funding support. WFP also thanks private partner Digicel for their contribution.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
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For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@example.org):
Mats Persson, WFP/Port Moresby, Mob. +675.723.50105
Justin Dittmeier, WFP/Port Moresby, Mob. +675.716.82535