In partnership with the State of Emergency Controller’s Office and Regional Disaster Centre of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, UNDP has supported almost 4000 people displaced by the eruption of Mount Bagana in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
UNDP helps Bougainville recover from Mt. Bagana eruption
September 19, 2023
“We woke up to loud sounds in the morning. As I went out, I saw the ash covering our gardens. There was a thick smell of sulfur in the air and I felt like I was inhaling nothing but ash.”
These are the terrifying scenes that Dorris Akoitai watched unfold in her village of Sisivi in Central Bougainville on the morning of 7 July 2023, as Mount Bagana, one of the most active volcanoes in Papua New Guinea, erupted near her home. The eruption affected more than 8100 residents in areas surrounding the volcano, which prompted the Regional Disaster Centre of the Autonomous Bougainville Government to issue a formal request for support from the Government of Papua New Guinea and its partners.
With support from the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States, UNDP and the State of Emergency Controller’s Office and Regional Disaster Centre have coordinated relief efforts in two temporary evacuation care centers in Torokina and Wakunai, where more than 3900 people have evacuated since the beginning of the crisis.
Dorris and her family of four children were among the over 400 families evacuated to the center in the coastal town of Wakunai. “This has been a new experience for us as most of us are from the inlands of Bougainville. Many children are seeing the sea for the first time, which is exciting for them. We are all very grateful to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the PNG National Government and everyone else who have ensured that we have food and shelter during this difficult time,” says Dorris.
While Dorris and her family try to keep a positive outlook, life in the care centers comes with its challenges. “Like most women here, I miss tending to my garden. Back home we sell cabbage, potatoes and peanuts to earn an income, which is not possible here. I am of course also worried about my property in my village,” Dorris explains.
In order to make the conditions in the centers as comfortable as possible for the evacuees, UNDP has coordinated the procurement and delivery of various non-food items, which the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States have donated to the care centers. The non-food items include tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, hygiene kits, dignity kits, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, water containers, water purification tablets.
The transportation of the items to both care centers commenced on 10 August 2023 with the help of four helicopters provided by the United States military, airplanes provided by the Australian and New Zealand military and a landing craft provided by the PNG Defense Force. “With the tarpaulins and tents we have received from our partners, we’ll be able to set up proper camps for the families,” says Mathew Kusa, the team leader of the Wakunai District Disaster Team.
Dorris is hopeful that the supplies she received will support her in rebuilding her life once she returns home. “I am especially happy to have received the shelter tool kit, as it will help me fix any damages at my house once I return to my village. Now we just have to patiently wait for advice from the authorities on when it is safe for us to go back. Of course, living near a volcano sometimes makes us fearful, but it is still our home,” she concludes.