Famine relief flights reach remote villages in Papua New Guinea

Published: 17 Nov 2015

Updated: March 2016

Relief flights to reach drought affected areas of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have begun.

MAF took delivery of 27.5 tonnes of rice and tinned fish flown to Tabubil by the PNG Defence Force Mini-Hercules aircraft in late October and early November.

Since then, MAF’s Twin Otter Aircraft have been distributing the food from Tabubil to locations identified as a priority in the Min area.

Among those receiving aid are the drought stricken communities of Sisamin, Edwaki, Oksapmin, Bak and Fiyak.

Richie Axon, who flew the cargo of food with fellow pilot Michael Vogel, reports that there was an abundance of willing hands to help unload the plane. ’All the people who came to watch the food being unloaded from the aircraft were so excited, and nearly the whole community arrived to watch at Sisamin.’

At some other centres, greed and desperation caused fights among those waiting for food – resulting in many being slashed with bush knives. So the distribution of aid was carefully controlled. Each receiving family was listed and instructions given to the waiting crowd to ensure fair distribution.

The desperate need for further aid to meet the needs of the communities MAF is serving is clear.

On 11 January, MAF's PNG Twin Otter (P2-MFU) left Mount Hagen Airport for the Western Province with 6 students aboard and 880kg of rice. The next day, P2-MFU was filled to capacity with rice from Mount Hagen, but in order to load the maximum amount of food and continue the flight to the Oksapmin village, a fuelling stop at Tari was necessary. When the plane finally reached Oksapmin, it seemed the whole community had come out to watch the unloading of the relief food. They had waited a long time for it!

From Oksapmin, the MAF plane headed back to Mount Hagen for a second load which was transported to another village, Wobagen. Again the community arrived to witness the delivery of food. 'At last, food has come!' the people said.

Homeward bound, MAF's pilots returned to Tari where 18 empty fuel drums were loaded up for return to Mount Hagen. During the drought, because the Fly River had been too low for the barges to deliver fuel to Kiunga, large stockpiles were kept in Tari for use in the Western Province.

For MAF's PNG food relief team, looking around the green fertile area, it was strange to realise that people here are starving. Although the country does have food, the lack of infrastructure makes these small isolated communities vulnerable when the rains don't come.

Continue to pray:

  • For a co-ordinated response from PNG’s central government in response to the acute needs
  • That communities in desperate need will remain peaceful, and fights over food wouldn’t break out
  • For the logistics of meeting the needs of communities around Tabubil. Because river levels are too low to navigate, we’re currently having to fly fuel to locations where fuel is normally transported by barge
  • Praise God for the way in which MAF is able to serve these communities in their hour of need.

Lift up our MAF staff involved in the relief effort, including:

  • Operations Manager Siobhain Dales and Interim Deputy Operations Manager Fred Orawi, co-ordinating the response from Mount Hagen
  • Our ground staff in Tabubil and Telefomin
  •  MAF Pilots who are on standby for further food distribution flights.