El Niño in the Pacific region
Australia acted early to provide support to El Niño-affected nations through Humanitarian Partnership Agreement NGOs and the Australian Red Cross.
In November 2015, a $9 million package was announced to help communities and governments prepare for and respond to El Niño. This included:
- $5 million to PNG to help vulnerable communities and provide logistical support
- $4 million to support humanitarian NGO response efforts across the Pacific.
In February 2016, another $500,000 was announced to help North Pacific island countries.
$5 million funding to Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the impacts of the El Niño-induced drought have affected food security in a number of isolated areas in Western Province and the highlands, where subsistence communities are rebuilding food stocks. This funding was used for a range of activities including:
- helping PNG's National Agricultural Research Institute improve food security for about 500,000 people by providing seeds for drought resistant crops and teaching simple water conservation and irrigation techniques
- supporting NGOs to identify and respond to priority water and sanitation needs across at least six impacted provinces
- providing assistance through the Church Partnerships Program to take advantage of the access of church groups in hard-to-reach areas so as to support vulnerable groups (children, pre-post natal women, disabled, the elderly).
$4 million funding to humanitarian NGOs
This funding was allocated to four NGOs through Australia's Humanitarian Partnership Agreement to support preparedness and response activities in the Pacific. These NGOs include CARE Australia, World Vision Australia, Save the Children Australia and OXFAM Australia. In addition to monitoring the progress of El Niño across the Pacific, the NGOs have provided assistance focusing on:
- supporting communities to prepare for impact
- monitoring impact and drought conditions
- water infrastructure to improve emergency water access and storage options
- health and nutrition advice specifically relevant to drought-affected communities
- public health services including immunisations
- assistance to re-plant and protect agricultural crops.
The Australian Government is also helping rural communities in Timor-Leste that have been badly affected by El Nino and this year's long dry season. More than 42,000 people in six municipalities will benefit from local projects that will help their communities deal better with the drought conditions.
Australia has provided funding to non-government organisations CARE, Caritas, Oxfam, Plan and World Vision. These organisations have a strong presence in municipalities worst affected by the drought conditions caused by El Nino. Australia is also contributing to the Timor-Leste Drought Appeal launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The projects include repairs to water taps and pipes, building kitchen gardens, distributing drought tolerant seeds, improving water and food storage and helping farmers better manage crops.
$500,000 North Pacific funding
Australia has allocated up to $500,000 to help North Pacific island countries to respond to El Niño. This includes $200,000 to support response efforts in the Republic of the Marshall Islands where almost 12,000 people have been affected by severe water shortages. These funds were released quickly to enable the procurement of three 800 gallon per day desalination units to provide clean water to some of the more populated outer islands, as well as enabling the distribution of 25,600 bars of soap and hygiene kits (sourced and procured locally). An additional $300,000 is on standby for further assistance, as required, and we are working with other North Pacific island countries to monitor the situation.
Several Volunteers through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program contributed to the Australian Government's response to El Nino in Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea in 2015–16.