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Red Cross Red Crescent appeal for Papua New Guinea

28 November 2007

MEDIA RELEASE

Red Cross Red Crescent launches appeal for Papua New Guinea cyclone survivors


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an appeal for NZ$884,193 to assist at least 13,000 people made homeless by Cyclone Guba that smashed into the northern coast of Papua New Guinea on 10 November.

The provinces of Oro and Milne Bay were particularly hard hit, with the storm bringing several days of severe rains and floods. Even now, more than two weeks after Guba hit, access to some of the worst affected areas remains very difficult, a reality that has severely hampered initial relief efforts. According to government figures, 164 people have been killed with 143,000 affected in total.

"Bridges and port access have been washed away, and many communities can only be reached by helicopter or boat," explained Ene-Mai Oks, International Federation head of delegation in Papua New Guinea. "Popondetta, the capital of Oro province, and surrounding areas have been completely cut off."

Despite the considerable logistical challenges, the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society has already mobilised resources and is distributing aid. With support from the International Federation and the Australian, French and New Zealand Red Cross Societies, the Red Cross has deployed its pre-existing stockpile of relief supplies to Oro by boat. This consignment includes 700 tarpaulins and 800 water containers.

In addition, an Australian Red Cross water purification unit has just arrived in Port Moresby, and is now on its way to Popondetta hospital.

"The hospital was running very low on clean water, and there was a fear that it would have to close in the coming days unless this equipment arrived," explained Rosemarie North, New Zealand Red Cross communications officer in Papua New Guinea. "This could have been catastrophic for the community."

The Red Cross Red Crescent emergency relief operation will run for six weeks with efforts focused on the distribution of basic items such as food, tarpaulins and collapsible water containers. Funds will also be used to recruit, equip, train and manage Papua New Red Cross volunteers and staff to ensure the effective implementation of the operation, and to strengthen the Red Cross' capacity to address future disasters.

Guba's impact was exacerbated by the fact that it arrived earlier than the usual storm season. "Normally, we wouldn't expect a storm of this size before December," said Ms Oks. "Because of this, people hadn't started to stockpile food and water, and to prepare rainy season shelters. As a result, thousands of people now face a long road back to recovery."

The International Federation in has already released 25,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to fund initial emergency assessments.

ENDS

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