WASH, protection and food security are in critical need of international assistance: Joint plan lays path to addressing COVID-19 secondary impacts

Though a significant amount of money has been spent on COVID-19 preparation and response across Papua New Guinea, there remains a critical need to address the gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The DMT has just released a revised version of its multi-sector response plan that addresses these gaps, targeting 2.3 million people nationwide.

Sister Maryanne Konkule manages Tarakbits Sub- Health Centre, a clinic that serves remote communities along Ok Ao river near Papua New Guinea’s border with Indonesia. She just finished a week of training on maternal and antenatal health care at Rumginae Rural Hospital. Sister Maryanne knew then that the request from health care workers from across North Fly District was clear: more assistance is needed. “I look forward to further support on antenatal and newborn care,” she said.

The training was delivered by the United Nations and National Department of Health with support from funds that are part of a response plan by the Disaster Management Team (DMT). The DMT, comprises UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and international donor partners and is co-chaired by the Government and the United Nations Resident Coordinator. The DMT supports the Government’s response to COVID-19 in the country.

Rumginae’s lead physician Dr Kevin Pondikou said, “This support will ensure that services to women and newborn babies will continue despite the global pandemic putting additional stress on an already strained and over-burdened health system in North Fly.”

Though a significant amount of money has been spent on COVID-19 preparation and response across Papua New Guinea, there remains a critical need to address the gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The DMT has just released a revised version of its multi-sector response plan that addresses these gaps, targeting 2.3 million people nationwide.

Mr David Manning, National Pandemic Controller, welcomes the revision to the plan and expressed his appreciation for continued support from the international community.

 “COVID-19 it not only a health response; it has also affected us in other ways that require our collective attention. We hope this revised plan, which highlights the funding gaps remaining in non-health areas, will draw the attention of our international partners to continue providing support that will help us respond to and live with COVID,” Mr Manning said.

The US$112.8 million plan engages Government departments, non-governmental and faith-based organisations, and UN agencies to deliver informed, national solutions to the evolving COVID-19 situation. It takes a holistic look at both primary and secondary impacts from the virus, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection, food security, education, and nutrition.

The DMT plan sees these institutions working collaboratively in delivering sustainable solutions to the most vulnerable across multiple sectors. However, it highlights the areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Protection, and Food Security as most in need of funding.

“WASH, Protection and Food Security are in critical need of international assistance,” said UN Resident Coordinator Gianluca Rampolla. “This support can help the country respond to and live with this virus.”

The new DMT Plan seeks to build on the impact of the WASH cluster to deliver permanent solutions for accessible water and sanitation, which are essential to preventing and controlling the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. Permanent solutions will help communities achieve improved health and wellbeing and build resilience to future crises.

World Vision PNG National Director Ms Heather MacLeod said, "WASH Cluster members led by World Vision have been providing much needed training for frontline health care workers in the area of WASH and identified community motivators to speak to the WASH principles of a healthy community. We believe that messaging and awareness raising in a country with low mass media penetration is key to managing a pandemic of this scale. Since March, the WASH Cluster has been reaching out to ‘unreached’ communities with the ‘COVID-19 awareness messages."

In addition to improving facilities, the plan will help connect Papua New Guinea’s most vulnerable to support services and centres. 1.75 million Papua New Guineans – parents, caregivers, children, victims of gender-based violence, displaced persons, migrants and disabled persons – need help services. The revised DMT Plan will strengthen national institutions and referral pathways for these people and rehabilitate shelters to create safer spaces for persons in need.

The Director of the National Disaster Centre, Col Carl Wrakonei, who co-chairs the DMT, noted that in addition to COVID-19 parts of the country are also responding to African Swine Fever and Fall Armyworm infestation. “We are dealing with concurrent emergencies, which are underfunded as we focus our resources on COVID-19 measures,” Col Wrakonei said. “We must also remember that we are about to enter a La Niña, which will bring greater-than-normal rainfall and higher-than-normal temperatures to most of the country, and will certainly bring more flooding and landslides and increase the likelihood of food insecurity, water-borne diseases and socio-economic impacts for vulnerable communities.”

In the Highlands, African Swine Fever and Fall Army Worm continue to threaten livestock and communities need assistance to maintain safe and secure access to food. An estimated 400,000 people across the country face potential food shortages. With the revised plan, the UN and other partners will support NAQIA activities that equip local farmers and families with technology and resources for sustainable consumption. 

Importantly, this plan is designed to build on the valuable work already delivered by government, civil society and UN organizations in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Rampolla said the updated plan “focuses on gaps, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people, and, jointly with Government partners, attempts to address the most critical primary and secondary impacts of this public health emergency.”

For more information about the Disaster Management Team’s revised multi-sector response plan, contact Richard Higgins at richard.higgins@undp.org.

The plan may be accessed online at https://reliefweb.int/report/papua-new-guinea/covid-19-multi-sector-response-plan-papua-new-guinea-disaster-management-0

UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Capital Development Fund
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Office for Project Services
World Food Programme
World Health Organization