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Papua New Guinea Limited Emergency Operation PG01

Countries: Papua New Guinea | Operations ID: 201068 | Operations type: Limited Emergency Operation (LEO)

On 26 February 2018, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit Papua New Guinea at a depth of 35 km, with its epicentre in Enga Province (Central Highlands). A series of heavy aftershocks followed, up until 6 March. Severe damage is reported in 59 Local-Level Government areas (LLGs), affecting 23 districts in 9 provinces.

The earthquake destroyed access roads and water reservoirs. It disrupted river flows and caused many landslides which destroyed root crops and vegetable gardens – the primary food source in that area. Coping mechanisms are very limited. With a lack of clean water, food and shelter, populations are moving towards areas where they expect to find assistance. Others may be too isolated to move. The immediate need is for clean water, food, shelter and protection.

Seven LLGs were hardest-hit, by intensity 8 and 9 (on a 10-point grading scale). Part of the population in this area already experienced a high level of food insecurity prior to the earthquake.

On 1 March 2018, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea declared an immediate state of emergency for the earthquake-affected areas in Hela, Southern and Western Highlands and Enga Provinces. A day later, during the first meeting of the Disaster Management Team, which was chaired by the Director of the National Disaster Center and the UN Resident Coordinator, the immediate need for humanitarian food assistance was stressed, and assistance from international agencies was very much welcomed. The subsequent Disaster Management Team meeting on 11 March then identified a top-priority group of 38,000 people as the worst affected and in immediate need of life-saving support, based on proximity to the epicentre and the intensity of the quake.

These 38,000 people are located within the seven most affected LLGs. However, due to potential movement of the people and given the inaccessibility of the terrain, further on-the-ground data collection will inform the exact location, numbers and relative isolation of this group.

WFP aims to provide as soon as possible a one-week ration of high-energy biscuits (HEBs), to be followed by two rounds of monthly rice rations, supplemented in the first round with HEBs, and in the second round with canned fish.

In its 72-hour assessment, version 1 of 6 March 2018, WFP estimates that the total population of these seven LLGs, estimated at 153,000 people, is likely in need of humanitarian assistance. Once the top-priority group of 38,000 persons have been reached, WFP will therefore aim to expand its response to the remaining 115,000 people with two rounds of food distributions, using the same food basket as for the top-priority group.

At this point, targeting is not feasible for multiple reasons. Thus, WFP plans to organize blanket food distributions in the affected area, accepting potential inclusion (and exclusion) errors as a residual risk. As WFP prepares its ground operation, information updates remain limited. WFP may therefore adjust its planning through budget revisions to this Limited Emergency Operation, as and when more updated information becomes available.  

WFP is also responding to a request from the Government for logistics coordination support and assessments through deployment of logistics coordinators and information management staff. WFP will complement its 72-hour assessment with a more in-depth mobile VAM (mVAM) assessment. The Food Security Cluster will also be strengthened through deployment of additional capacity.

Given that WFP has no permanent representation in Papua New Guinea, this operation will insert an emergency response team, with the objective to close the operation four months after the start of the implementation, by when most access roads and local agricultural production are expected to be back to pre-earthquake status.