Famine in Papua-New Guinea is getting worse daily. Already 130,000 people are dependent on government?
Famine in Papua-New Guinea is getting worse daily. Already 130,000 people are dependent on government imports of rice to survive.
Now fires are breaking out - further result of the lengthy drought. The drought followed last month's severe frosts - the worst ever experienced in the country - which killed crops over night.
The September wet season has still failed to arrive. Now the countryside is so dry there is little to stop the fires which are constantly breaking out, and more than a thousand homes have been destroyed.
The government's relief programme could cost up to four million dollars (over two million pounds sterling). Food has to be airlifted into the badly-hit Southern and Western Highlands by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. It is then distributed by helicopter to individual villages where missionaries and administration officers share it out.
Nobody has yet died of starvation, though some are living on the borderline. Everyone is allocated a pound of rice a day and a weekly ration of meet or fish.
Papua-New Guinea is administered by Australia under Trust from the United Nations.
SYNOPSIS: An aircraft arrives at a remote airstrip in Papua-New Guinea.
The onlookers aren't there just out of curiosity - to them this aircraft means hope, the chance to survive. The plane is bringing food form the government to help people in the Southern and Western Highlands of New Guinea live through a series of disasters.
They have been hungry ever since sudden frosts, worse than they'd ever know, wiped out all their crops last month. Rains due in September haven't yet come, so there's no hope of growing fresh food for another year.
Administration officials and missionaries share out the food supplied under a relief programme that could total more than two million pounds sterling. Nobody has yet died form the famine, but even with the imported aid, there's plenty of hunger about. The ration is a pound of rice per person per day, with weekly allocations of meat or fish to add protein to the subsistence diet.
About a hundred and thirty thousand people are surviving solely through Government food imports. But many are homeless as well as hungry. Fries sweeping through the countryside have destroyed more than a thousand homes. Once a blaze breaks out, there's nothing to stop it except nature itself - usually with a change of wind direction.