Following the 7.5-magnitude earthquake which struck Papua New Guinea on 26th February, the European Union is providing €110 000 to channel emergency assistance to the affected communities in the heavily impacted areas of Southern Highlands and Hela provinces.
An expert in water quality and waste management has also been deployed through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, to assist the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team. Additionally, the European Union activated the European satellite mapping system Copernicus, which has provided 13 maps of some the worst-hit parts of the country.
"Thousands of people are in urgent need of aid after the earthquake hit the country. The European Union is providing emergency assistance to support the work of the first responders on the ground," said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
This EU aid supports the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society in delivering live-saving aid through the distribution of emergency shelter and essential relief items, such as tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, and hygiene kits, whilst also ensuring first aid kits and health assistance are provided to those in need. In light of the difficulty in accessing some of the affected areas and the breakdown of communication systems, the assistance also supports aerial assessments and the deployment of volunteers to impacted localities. The funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Up to 143 000 people are estimated to have been affected, including 500 injured and 17 000 others displaced, according to IFRC. Some health facilities and schools are reported to have sustained severe damage. The full extent of the devastation remains unclear as road accessibility and lines of communications in the already hard-to-reach areas have been broken off, hampering efforts to conduct assessments and the provision of immediate support. At least 70 aftershocks have rattled the country since the earthquake, including one of 6.4 magnitude on 6 March in Western Province, which killed a further 18 people. A state of emergency has been declared in the impacted provinces, namely Hela, Southern Highlands, Western, and Enga provinces.
The European Commission has signed a €3 million humanitarian contribution agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF. For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the DREF. The contribution agreement between the IFRC and the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humantarian Aid Operations enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.