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Australian gives $30 million for PNG drought relief



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M ED IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

AA13 24 February 1998

AUSTRALIA GIVES $30 MILLION FOR PNG DROUGHT RELIEF

The Australian Government has committed some $30 million to the Papua New Guinea drought relief effort since October last year.

These funds are in addition to $300 million Australia has contributed this financial year under the Papua New Guinea-Australia Development Co-operation Treaty.

The significant financial contribution the Australian Government has made to PNG during the drought crisis is evidence of the concern felt in Australia for the welfare of the people of Papua New Guinea.

The $30 million has gone towards the cost of the purchase in PNG of food, the Australian Defence Force air operation, technical assistance, and to support other drought relief activities by Australian non-government aid organisations.

Following a request for assistance from the PNG Government, the Australian Government's International Aid Agency, AusAID, has been providing food aid to people in desperate need and accessible only by air. Around 60,000 people in this situation have been targeted each month since October 1997. The Australian Defence Force has provided AusAID with essential logistical support in a joint operation with the PNG Defence Force. To date, the ADF has delivered over 2.5 million kilograms of

food aid.

Recent reports indicate that the drought situation is improving faster than expected with widespread rainfalls since late December. This has meant the number of people requiring food aid has fallen as bush foods begin to return. In response to the improved situation, AusAID has adjusted its food aid relief efforts and is currently targeting food aid deliveries to 54,000 people.

A critical part of Australia's drought relief effort has been to fund two drought impact assessment reports on behalf of the PNG Government. A third assessment report focussing on drought rehabilitation is now being planned.

As conditions in PNG improve Australia is providing $1.2 million of assistance in agricultural rehabilitation under the development co-operation program. Up to 400 tonnes of seeds of rapid growing crops are being shipped to PNG this month. The ADF, the PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the PNG Fresh Produce

Development Corporation will distribute the seeds to villagers.

Media contacts: Innes Willox (Minister’s Office) 02 6277 7500 / 0411 414 695 Deborah Nesbitt (AusAID Canberra) 02 6206 4966/ 0417 683 767