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Australian winds down PNG drought relief effort



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M E D IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

AA22 1 April 1998

AUSTRALIA WINDS DOWN PNG DROUGHT RELIEF EFFORT

I am pleased to announce that Australia is winding down the emergency phase of its drought relief operation in Papua New Guinea as rain continues to fall throughout the country.

The six-month relief effort in PNG has been the largest and most complex emergency operation ever undertaken by Australia's aid program. At its peak, around 660,000 kilograms of food was delivered to 60,000 people each month.

This week the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), through the aid program, will conduct its last flights delivering emergency food aid to very remote parts of PNG as Operation Sierra winds down and personnel and equipment are redeployed to Australia.

However, Australia will continue to deliver food to people in serious need. With drought-breaking rain falling across much of the country, the number of people needing emergency assistance has reduced to a point where commercial aircraft can now be used to deliver food aid to isolated areas.

Under the relief effort, Australia has delivered over 3.5 million kilograms of food aid to isolated areas, provided medical assistance, helped distribute around 400 tonnes of much-needed seed and planting materials and transported technical personnel to isolated villages.

The Australian relief effort has played a key role in helping thousands of Papua New Guineans to survive the impact of the severe drought and frosts. I am delighted that the Australian Government has received expressions of warm gratitude from the Government and people of PNG for its contribution to the relief effort.

I would like to thank the ADF for the significant contribution it has made to Australia's drought relief effort in PNG.

Overall, the Australian Government has committed $30 million to the relief effort. This is in addition to the approximately $300 million provided annually by Australia under the Papua New Guinea-Australia Development Cooperation Treaty.

Media contacts: Innes Willox (Minister’s Office) 02 6277 7500 / 0411 414 695 Deborah Nesbitt (AusAID Canberra) 02 6206 4966/0417 683 767 Andrea McLaughlin (AusAID Port Morseby) 675 325 9333 ext:288 mobile 675 6939805