We wish to acknowledge receipt of K.14,431.26 and to thank the Archbishop for this generous contribution towards meeting the needs of the survivors of this disaster. Tomorrow is the feast of St. Anne, patron of this Aitape Diocese. The feast will be celebrated using the theme “ONE IN THE SPIRIT.” This will not be for us a feast of sorrow but one of rejoicing that while the area has been struck with disaster there is an incalculable gift of unity being experienced through an overwhelming outpouring of care and support from all over the world. We will indeed pray for those who have died; The importance of grieving is indisputable. However, the need to move forward in hope will be emphasised at all liturgical gatherings tomorrow.
Communications promising prayer and financial support from all over the world continue to arrive. At times like this many people feel so helpless when they are far away, but in fact we are all united in the body of Christ and we here are strengthened by the prayer and the outpouring of care being expressed in so many ways from all around the world……be assured of this.
Please continue to pray for us all as the work of resettling the survivors and ministering to their spiritual needs is just beginning. And know that in prayer and in masses each day the priests and people here ask the Lord for a special blessing on all those who have supported us at this time.
It has taken quite a while before furnishing you with another drought report from Kerema Diocese. After a long dry spell, we have been receiving very heavy rain in our mountain areas. Recently we also received heavy rain throughout the whole Gulf Province. This helped the coastal communities to get water in the nearby streams easily. Most educational institutions which were closed in October 1997 should be able to start the school year well. Hope our children will not be victimised again.
The communities from the mountain parishes and coastal areas started planting sweet potatoes, bananas, taro and other vegetables in their gardens. People need to be assisted with lots of seedlings such as corn, beans, chinese cabbages, pumpkin and so on. The garden food planted now will take another five to six months before they can be harvested. After six months people will come back to their normal lives.
After the heavy rain in most of our badly affected areas people are still coming to our diocese office seeking for more help from us. Despite the rain the results have not changed, the people are still suffering. The parish priests from various parishes have also raised the same concern. They said the majority of people need lots of assistance.
Papua New Guinea government assistance has been insufficient and even delivered late while the bulk of the people suffer while waiting for the relief supplies to reach them.
Melbourne Diocese financial assistance has greatly supported the communities. Even we have also assisted the government in chartering planes to transport the relief food supplies to our mountain parishes.
I would like to give our sincere thankyou to the Melbourne Diocese for the financial support you have given to our communities. This has greatly assisted us in providing relief food supply to the needy. I would also highlight our concern on AusAid aid given to Komako and Buu communities with the population of 2,100 people. This single group of people received more food supplies than the total population of 13,000 people. They live in the same area and we are questioning on what basis the assessment was made. They are listed as category 5 on the AusAid drought report. Our communities are all affected in the same way as the Komako and Buu communities. The recent re-assessment should at least put our communities on the same category as the other Komako and Buu.
Finally I have prepared the general expenditure of the spendings we made on the relief food supply. We also learnt from Caritas Australia that basic relief food is only rice, flour and cooking oil. We have included tinned fish in our list. The Papua New Guinea government have included tinned fish in the relief supply. We will improve on this in the future.
Thankyou once again for the financial support you have given to the people of the Gulf Province.
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.