In response to a statement by the Defence Minister of New Zealand that the extent of damage from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the Papua New Guinea highlands, which has left more than 100 people dead, is under-reported and therefore not getting the assistance and attention it deserves, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South East Asia and the Pacific James Gomez said:
“Papua New Guinea has limited capacity to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. The slow trickle of information from the remote highlands province has indicated that aid is slow to reach those who need it most. Human rights must to be at the core of relief and recovery efforts. This includes ensuring prompt and equitable distribution of aid. Relief efforts must respond especially to the specific needs of women and girls and ensure there are safe shelters available and they can access the necessities required.
“International donors who are in a position to help, especially Australia and New Zealand, need to assist the Papua New Guinean government to provide essential humanitarian relief to the affected areas. In particular, there is an urgent need to establish safe and accessible evacuation and distribution centres in the highlands, as well as ensuring that medical and psycho-social support is provided to affected individuals.”
The UN Coordination and Assessment Team (UNDOC) in collaboration with humanitarian partners in PNG has estimated 232,000 people are severely exposed to the effects of the earthquake and in need of disaster relief in affected areas.
In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, governments must ensure that survivors are safe, have access to medical care, clothed, fed and sheltered and have access to all necessary information. The human rights to life, health and physical security of the person, housing, clean drinking water and adequate food are essential.