Papua New Guinea (PNG) is extremely vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters, particularly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Six of 16 active volcanos in PNG are classified as high risk.? The country also frequently experiences earthquakes and faces a high risk of related tsunamis. Rising sea-levels are another concern, especially for island communities, and will decrease access to agricultural land and groundwater. During the wet season from November to April, island and coastal communities are exposed to high winds and cyclones, while inland communities often experience flooding and landslides. At the same time, PNG is prone to localised dry spells and droughts, such as the El Niño-induced severe drought in 2015/16.? 2019 will likely see drier than normal conditions due to a highly likely but moderate El Niño event.?
87% of PNG’s population live in remote rural areas and the dependence on subsistence agriculture and unimproved water sources increases their vulnerability to external shocks like sudden- and slow-onset natural disasters or epidemics.? Severe acute malnutrition is very high and remains an underlying factor for morbidity and infant mortality.?
INFORM measures PNG's risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster as relatively high with 5.6/10, partially due to a severe lack of coping capacity (7.6/10).?
Only 3% of roads in Papua New Guinea are paved; travel between provinces is mostly by air or boat.? Natural disasters such as the earthquake in the highlands in February 2018 tend to further damage road networks and hinder humanitarian access.
Intercommunal conflicts and tribal violence as well as safety concerns due to petty crimes and intimidation or threatening behaviour at project sites and illegal roadblocks regularly hampers humanitarian access.?
PNG is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. Around half of the population do not speak the lingua franca (Tok Pisin) and the highland regions use a different dialect from the lowlands. ?
21/05: Assessments are ongoing following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake between New Ireland and New Britain Islands on 14 May. As of 21 May, around 750 people are reportedly displaced on the Duke of York Islands and at least 130 houses are severely damaged. There are no reports of casualties. Papua New Guinea’s poor communications infrastructure, lack of roads and difficult terrain mean that sometimes it can be days before the full impact is known.?
The Bougainville referendum set to be held in June but might be postponed until later this year.? A recent report voiced concern over the unknown number of weapons still in circulation and a lack of human and financial capacity that potentially poses a threat to the peace process in the autonomous region of Bougainville.?
Health: PNG has a low vaccination coverage, exacerbating the vulnerability to outbreaks – Tuberculosis cases are common and the poliovirus has re-emerged in 2018, which is further aggravated by the deterioration of access to quality healthcare in recent years.?
Displacement: Intercommunal violence, land disputes, and natural disasters often cause internal displacement in PNG (45,000 people between 2013 and 2016) and are increasing the need to find durable solutions for those unable to return to their places of origin.?
WASH: Only 40% of the population have access to an improved water source and only 19% of the population have access to an improved sanitation facility.?
Information Gaps and needs
- Timely information on affected populations and sectoral needs is often limited, partly due to a lack of humanitarian actors on the ground. In June 2015, the OCHA Humanitarian Advisory Team office was closed.
- There are several areas that are hard-to-reach, largely due to remoteness.