Monday, September 13, 2010

10,000 in Bougainville starving

MORE than 10,000 people in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville are in need of food and medical assistance after continuous rainfall destroyed food gardens and devastated roads, The National reports.

Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President John Momis highlighted the problem last Friday when accepting 4,000 cartons of biscuits worth K180, 000 from the Lae Biscuit Co Ltd.

The company will ship the biscuits in two containers to the ABG office this week.

Weather experts had linked the continuous rainfall to the change in climate as a result of global warming.

According to the website, the months prior to July were hot and dry in Bougainville.

“Rainwater storage tanks were running low and any rainfall was occasional and light.

“However, in the last couple of weeks, there has been a major change – rain is now heavy and frequent,” the website said.

Many Bougainvilleans lead a mostly subsistence lifestyle, growing most of their own food in gardens. Others rely on generating income through growing cash crops like cocoa and coconuts.

According to locals, people grow crops fit for the climate, and the crops are grown according to the seasons.

“If weather patterns start to change and crops do not grow, many people have little safety net and will struggle for income and food,” the website added.

Typically, July is part of the dry season but, this year, the wet season came early and the heavy monsoon rains were having a massive impact.

“Only small sections of the roads in Bougainville are sealed and the remainder has quickly turned to a series of deep water-filled potholes.

“The rain also caused slips and landslides, creating road blocks that the government in Bougainville does not yet have the capacity to clear quickly,” the website added.

This had impacted greatly on the local communities, as the poor roads meant they could not take their cocoa and copra to the buyers.

Many government and non-governmental projects and programmes had also been affected, officials said.

The rains had not stopped since last month.

“We express our sympathy for the hardships and the life-threatening situations in the affected areas.

“We assure the president and other leaders of the ABG that we are happy to provide whatever we can for the health and safety of the victims of the natural disaster,” Lae Biscuit southern region manager Fabian Chow said.

He also called on the good people of Bougainville around the country to assist their families as much as possible.

“The leaders of Bougainville and other stakeholders can only do so much but it is the families that must now stand together to assist in any way possible your relatives back home,” Chow added.          

Also present to receive the donation with Momis were the Minister for Higher Education and North Bougainville MP Michael Ogio and director of the national coordination office of Bougainville affairs Ellison Towollom.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Lae  Biscuit. Thank you for the tremendous help you have given us in our time of need,” Momis said.

Ogio echoed similar sentiments and emphasised on the importance of strengthening partnership in all sectors of development.

“I call on the people of Bougainville to encourage partnership in your business so that, in times of need, this partnership exists,” he said.


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