IsraAID supporting water and mental health needs in Papua New Guinea

19 June, 2024

IsraAID, Israel’s leading international humanitarian aid group, is supporting urgent needs for safe water and mental health support in Papua New Guinea, following a devastating landslide in the country’s Enga Province. With search and rescue efforts called off, between 600 and 2,000 people have been estimated killed. Nearly 8,000 people have been affected by this disaster, with at least 1,650 displaced from their homes. IsraAID’s team is working closely with Provincial and National Authorities, as well as with UN and international partners to support the Province with MHPSS training to medical and health staff, and with access to water near to the landslide site.

On May 24 a massive landslide struck the remote Enga province of Papua New Guinea’s Highlands region. Triggered by heavy rains, the landslide swept over six villages. Dense jungle terrain, ongoing tribal conflict, and a large section of blocked highway complicated aid efforts, as authorities continue to fear the possibility of another landslide. On June 7 the Papua New Guinea government called off search and rescue efforts, declaring the entire area a mass burial site. The Papua New Guinea Government has also expressed concern that bodies trapped under the rubble could lead to dire sanitation issues, potentially causing mass outbreaks of disease.

Exact casualty counts are difficult to assess due to a lack of census data – however between 600 and 2,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Over 1,650 people have been directly displaced by the landslides. The current care center lies in a region that is at risk of additional landslides. An estimated 7,000-8,000 additional people are living in at-risk areas and are expected to be evacuated to the area surrounding the Mulitaka health center, outside the landslide risk area.

IsraAID’s emergency response team – composed of experts in emergency aid, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, and mental health and psychosocial support – conducted a rapid needs assessment upon arriving in Papua New Guinea on May 31. IsraAID’s team is currently conducting mental health and psychosocial support training for medical staff and first responders that will serve the displaced community at Mulitaka. These health providers are learning psychological first aid and psychosocial support techniques, alongside training in prevention of stress and burnout in emergencies. IsraAID’s water, sanitation, and hygiene experts are working to ensure access to safe water at the displacement site By working with local authorities to upgrade existing insufficient water supply system on site

This is IsraAID’s first response in Papua New Guinea. The organization has been working in nearby Vanuatu since 2015, following Cyclone Pam. In Vanuatu, IsraAID has been supporting Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, mental health needs, and Gender-Based Violence response and prevention, alongside supporting the communities’ resilience in the face of ongoing climate disasters. IsraAID launched a strategic office in Australia earlier this year, deepening the organization’s ties and commitment to the Pacific. The organization will leverage its regional experience and expertise to better respond in Papua New Guinea.

IsraAID’s Head of Mission in Papua New Guinea Idan Markovich, said:

“IsraAID is proud to stand beside the communities that were affected by this devastating landslide. Despite a difficult context, including inter-tribal conflicts and dangerous terrain, we have built strong partnerships with the local government and other international aid agencies. Our experts in mental health, logistics, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, are able to contribute from their vast expertise and international humanitarian experience, to support the local authorities as they work to provide emergency relief to their communities.
As an Israel-based aid group, IsraAID committed to continuing our global work of supporting disaster affected communities – regardless of nationality, race, or religion – despite the current difficulties we are facing at home.”

-ENDS-

Further information is available on request, including interviews with IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer, Senior Director of Emergencies and Operations Michal Bar, and other individuals involved in this operation.

PHOTOS:

Photographs of our work in Papua New Guinea are available for download and use here. All photos should be credited to IsraAID.

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