UNICEF Australia launches appeal to help 125,000 Papua New Guinea children urgently needing assistance following earthquakes

Help UNICEF provide lifesaving support for children in Papua New Guinea.

SYDNEY 15th March 2018 - UNICEF Australia is appealing to the public to help fund its relief effort for the children of Papua New Guinea affected by February’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake - and more than 100 quakes and tremors.

270,000 people, including 125,000 children, require urgent humanitarian assistance in areas where homes, subsistence farming and basic infrastructure including telecommunications, roads, hospitals and schools were destroyed.  The four provinces affected are in the rugged, mountainous area of PNG called the Highlands Region.

“Children are in a constant state of fear and exhaustion. Thousands of survivors are crowded into inadequate shelters where some relief is being distributed. But children are still extremely traumatised and hungry and face the risk of disease, malnutrition and lack of protection – and are of course out of school,” said Karen Allen, UNICEF PNG Country Representative.

In the hospitals and clinics still open, people have been admitted with trauma injuries, including crushed bones. One woman admitted to Mt Hagen Hospital said she had lost her husband and seven of her children.

One boy, receiving treatment after being hit in the head by falling rocks, says everyone in his village has lost their homes and food gardens. Eleven of his neighbours died.

“Tens of thousands of children in the Papua New Guinea Highlands desperately need our support and protection. We need to provide space spaces for children who lost the safety of their homes and schools when these collapsed around them,” said Tony Stuart, CEO of UNICEF Australia who just returned from meeting affected families in Mt Hagen.

Donations received by UNICEF Australia will directly support children affected by the earthquakes in the Southern Highlands and Hela Province, to help them access ‘Child Friendly Spaces’. These are spaces where children are protected from abuse and violence, and where they can receive psychosocial support and counselling.

UNICEF is also working closely with partners and the Papua New Guinea Government to deliver hygiene kits, basic sanitation and delivery of vaccines for children and women. Funding is needed to restore damaged ‘cold chain’ facilities to properly store vaccines and ensure that devices are in place for hypothermia and neonatal resuscitation.

About half of children under-five in Papua New Guinea are chronically malnourished; the highest rate in the Pacific and fourth worst in the world. A high proportion are not fully vaccinated. The situation is likely to get worse with the ongoing emergency so UNICEF has prioritised ready-to-use therapeutic food and micronutrients for children, and vaccinations.