I would like to up date you on the relief situation. Yesterday three Black Hawke Helicopters came, one with seats for the officials: Chris Haiveta, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Kimave the Governor, D Irvine the Australian High Commissioner, some journalists… and two to carry cargo. They can uplift about 1500 kg each. The day before a barge came from Aussie Aid, 25 tonnes of food stuff. Order was given by Canberra not to come into the bay of Kerema. As a consequence, the Provincial Government had to hire private canoes from the people of Siviri to unload the cargo; they will all come and ask for payment, something that was not budgeted for. Also off loading on the sea resulted in the breaking up of a certain number of bags and there is some waste. We were told that this Aussie Aid is exclusively for the mountains, the area most affected by the drought. All the public servants were asked to help in the unloading operation to cut on cost. Nobody was in the office on Friday.
When the helicopters arrived I went down to the airstrip and met Chris and the High Commissioner to find out about the relief operations and the distribution. Then I was told that everything will go to Komako and Buu. There is nothing for Kanabea, Kamina, Bema, Howabango, Wanto etc… Six weeks ago a team with an Australian doctor came to assess the situation and they came to the conclusion that Komako, Buu was most affected and that Aussie Aid would be directed to these places. The estimated population at Komako is 1400, at Buu 700. Each person would get a ration of 11kg food which should last for a month, hence the 25 tons. When I asked the High Commissioner what about the other places? He said what is the population? When I told him the figures, the calculation was that we would need about 50 tons of food for Kamina, 100 for Kanabea, 50 for Kantiba area, 25 for Hawabango, 25 for Wanto just to give the same amount as was given to Komako. Evidently they have not that type of food ready. The commander of the s quadron stood also with us and he said that the army could not extend their operations to uplift that tonage of food. They are given a limited hours of flying and that they cannot be extended, because they plan three years in advance their flying time and consequently have to oreder long in advance the spare parts for the helicopters. The army took 1/5th of their flying time and gave it to the relief operation in PNG. Because of that, some units in Australia will have no exercises at all. The situation, therefore does not look very bright.
When you mentioned that MOM would give 20,000 to the relief, I bought supplies immediately for 50,000 from Nings. We were promised that this would be delivered on Friday and we took the food down to the airstrip but this did not happen. The helicopter returned to Lae without touching our stuff and we had to bring everything back again. On Saturday we managed to send 20 bales of rice a 6 ctns of fish to Putei, via road to Terapo and canoe up the river. The deacon Philip accompanied this convoy.
On Sunday I pleaded with the High Commissioner and the Squadron Commander to take the rest of our food that is 110 bags of rice, 20 cts of fish to Kamina, which is 2800 kg. They said they have first to uplift the 25 tons for Komako. If time is left over they would need the two helicopters for one flight to Kamina. We delivered everything back to the airstrip and waited. In fact Fr David Charles Muntode who has been waiting here for the last fortnight stood there near the cargo until 5:30 pm and then he got a lift with the cargo to Kamina. An injured woman was also admitted and that filled the two helicopters.
I will buy some more rice and fish in case we get another opportunity to send something up the mountains.
This is how we have celebrated Christ the King. Your aid is most appreciated. Thanks very much.
With kind regards. Bishop Paul MSC