Papua New Guinea floods reach crisis point

In the field article written on the 07 May 2013

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Houses are sinking into the mud, crops are underwater and serious diseases are taking hold as floods continue to devastate East Sepik province, Papua New Guinea. Seven people are confirmed dead and around 2000 households, or 11,500 people, have been affected by the disaster.

The communities living along the Sepik riverbank are well adapted to dealing with floods. They experience a rise in water levels of one to two metres every year during the wet season, but this year is different. Unusually heavy rainfall since December 2012 has caused levels to peak as high as six metres in some areas, leading to a crisis in the region.

An Oxfam assessment team visited 12 villages last week to see the impact of the flooding and to plan our response. In most communities there are no safe water sources, very few families have toilets and the stagnant flood water surrounding their homes has become contaminated. They have no choice but to use that same water for drinking, washing and bathing.

Malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and skin diseases are on the rise and there are fears of a serious disease outbreak if hygiene conditions don’t improve soon. Families have been made homeless as the foundations of their houses give way and their homes sink into the muddy waters. A food shortage is also predicted, with the fishing industry devastated and cacao, sago and fruit crops destroyed.

It will take a long time for communities to recover. Clean water sources will need to be established, crops will need to be replanted, and some villages will have to relocate to higher ground.

As an initial emergency response, Oxfam plans to distribute hygiene kits, kitchen kits and shelter kits, as well as run a hygiene promotion campaign. Even simple items like water containers and soap can make a big difference in preventing further outbreaks of disease.

Please contribute to Oxfam’s emergency response and help the people of East Sepik province re-establish their homes and livelihoods.

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You can help the communities in Papua New Guinea by making a donation to our International Crisis Fund today.