ABM responds to PNG cyclone

Response to ABM’s PNG Disaster Appeal has been swift and generous but there is still much to do says Stephen Daughtry.

Two months on from the November cyclone that wrecked thousands of lives, people in Oro Province, PNG are still coming to terms with the magnitude of Cyclone Guba.

On 14 and 15 November 2007 the tropical cyclone destroyed bridges, homes, and gardens across the mostly Anglican Province, leaving more than 200 people dead. For weeks afterward, people struggled to stay alive. Many were forced to remain in the branches of trees for days until the flood waters subsided and left a revolting mess of mud and debris that piled over two metres high in some communities.

Across Oro Province more than two thirds of the population, or over 100,000 people, have lost their subsistence food gardens. Dozens of villages were washed away entirely.

As residents of Oro were struggling to survive, the local Anglican Church swung into action. With immediate help from the Anglican Board of Mission, who brought in the first relief supplies by helicopter and barge, the Anglican Diocese of Popondota was able to assess the needs and act immediately. The church is also making a major contribution to the efforts of PNG Government and international donor responses.

But rather than patting themselves on the back, hundreds of Anglican volunteers are rolling up their sleeves for the long effort ahead.

For the residents of Kinjaki, the struggle is far from over. Hard to reach at the best of times, Kinjaki is now completely cut off from the nearest road and must rely on dinghies to supply all their needs. Where once houses and gardens stood, there is now a rugged river bed. Villagers have erected temporary shelters on a nearby hill and are all too conscious that they will not be able to feed or support themselves for many months to come.

Bishop Joe Kopapa and the Anglican Church in Oro Province realise that the people of Kinjaki don’t just need food and shelter. There has been a wave of spiritual uncertainty in the wake of the disaster. Church attendance has increased noticeably and people have noticed that their brothers and sisters in the Australian Anglican church have not deserted them in their hour of need.

As well as sending out teams to every corner of the Province, the Anglican Church is preparing for the next phase of the disaster response. Fifteen hectares of land near the Melanesian Brothers’ Headquarters at Doboduru has been prepared for the propagation of suckers and seeds to restock community gardens.

The wait for these vital rehabilitation needs will be felt all too keenly by women like Mother Ilene Namaro. As Brad Chapman, ABM’s liaison officer throughout the first month of the disaster relief effort, was leaving the Province, Mother Ilene pleaded ‘please don’t forget about all these children. We just don’t know where our next meal is coming from.’

Donations can still be made by contacting ABM on 1300 302 663 or online
The Appeal letter may be downloaded from the website.

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debris-filled river in cyclone ravaged PNG

Swelling to over ten times its normal breadth, the already ferocious Kumusi River swept away everything like playthings. Photo Brad Chapman ABM