On 26 February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) affecting around 544,000 people in Enga, Gulf, Hela, Southern Highlands and Western provinces. Of these, more than 270,000 people are in immediate need of life-saving assistance.
Aftershocks continue to cause fear and panic, forcing many people to remain outside. While numbers fluctuate, around 18,200 displaced people are staying in informal care centres, with thousands more staying with host families. Around 54,000 homes have been damaged and are in need of urgent shelter assistance.
Landslides caused by the earthquake have negatively affected food security. Many root crops and family vegetable plots have been destroyed. Around 143,000 people are estimated to have been rendered food insecure.
Roads have been damaged reducing access to markets and public services. Around 64% of health facilities have been damaged and 32% remain closed. Health workers are traumatized and unable to work. Surveillance systems are not functional, leaving the affected communities highly vulnerable to outbreak risks.
The integrity of water sources has been affected and are not safe for drinking. Rainwater collection systems have been destroyed. With limited access to safe and clean water, waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea are a significant risk. This is further compounded by the destruction of sanitation facilities and unsafe hygiene practices.
Many children and teachers have been affected, many likely displaced. Children have been traumatised and are afraid to go back to school. In the seven most affected Local-Level Government (LLGs) over 34,000 school children are enrolled in 368 schools.
The earthquake has significantly affected children, women and girls, young people, persons living with disability and other vulnerable people. Psychosocial support is critical to help people deal with trauma and loss. The earthquake is likely to exacerbate cultural views and practices in relation to women and girls such as restrictive socio-cultural norms and practices, high levels of sexual and gender based violence. Mainstreaming of protection and gender considerations therefore are critical across the entire response.
The current response focuses on live-saving assistance while slowly transitioning to life-supporting and early recovery efforts. This relief-to-recovery transition will be critical to empower those affected to quickly rebuild their lives with dignity.