Papua New Guinea
1.1 Papua New Guinea Humanitarian Background

Papua New Guinea is prone to numerous natural hazards including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, drought, floods, tropical cyclones, landslides, the impact of climatic change and climate variability and sea level rise.  PNG is ranked within the top 6 countries having the highest percentage of population exposed to earthquake hazard, as well as having one of the highest total populations exposed to earthquake in the Asia-Pacific region. PNG also ranked close behind the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vanuatu in having the highest percentage of population exposed to severe volcanic risks. 

In addition, there is high risk of technological and human-caused disasters from oil spill, industrial pollution, unregulated and destructive land use practices and infrastructural development, as well as a rapid growth in population. Societal crisis such as civil unrest and HIV/AIDS have also made their presence known in Papua New Guinea. Many parts of PNG have a history of inter-community violence (tribal fighting) which remains common particularly in highlands provinces.

Disasters in PNG vary in speed, extent and level of impact. Natural disasters range from widespread slow onset events such as drought, which may affect the health and livelihoods of many but ultimately result in few deaths; to floods and cyclones that may have a sudden, high impact on the health and livelihoods of communities. The country has numerous small scale emergencies each year as a result of violent inter-community conflict (tribal fights), storms and disease outbreaks, which usually affect small numbers of people.

In PNG natural disasters have consistently affected key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, infrastructure and community livelihoods. In the period between 1997- 2002, 63 major calamities were reported in PNG that affected 4.1 million people. Over the past 25 years, the country has had 508 earthquake-related fatalities, 9 deaths from volcanic eruptions, 3,210 from tsunami/wave surges, 47 from cyclones, 58 from flooding, 314 from landslides, and 98 from drought. The social and economic ramifications of these many hazards is multiplied when overlaid with the high levels of vulnerability of people due to the lack of infrastructure, low human development indicators, and a high population growth rate. The highlands, with 2.2 million people, are subject to weather extremes of heavy rainfall and drought. Increasingly, landslides are occurring from population pressures on uncontrolled land use. The coastal areas and the many coral atolls are low-lying and nearly 500,000 people in 2,000 coastal villages are vulnerable to weather extremes and inundation. Over 80 percent of the population live in a rural environment and are susceptible to extremes of climate (rains and drought) related to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

 Scientific evidence suggest that frequency and intensity of El Niño events has increased over the last 50 years and a major El Niño event may result in severe drought conditions in most parts of PNG. Climate change is also likely to exacerbate the risk of natural hazards by causing extreme weather events more frequently and sea-level rise to magnify the impact of storm surges and waves on coastal areas. The northern portion of New Guinea mainland and the islands are vulnerable to volcanoes, tsunami, coastal flooding, landslides, earthquake and rising sea level. Similarly, with the Highlands interior and other upland areas of the country, frost, hailstorms, drought, bush-fires, and landslides are frequent. However, just as flooding and drought conditions are experienced in the entire New Guinea Islands, tropical cyclones are also common along the southern and the far eastern coastal and islands region of Papua New Guinea. On the other hand, human caused disasters maybe categorized under technological, industrial and biological hazards.

Papua New Guinea OCHA Country Overview Map_070301

Papua New Guinea OCHA Natural Hazards Risks Map_070301


Disasters, Conflicts and Migration

Natural Disasters

Yes / No

Comments / Details


Yes 1997 drought and frost in Highland provinces (El Niño). Left many agricultural communities in the highlands without food, and larger landlocked settlements that rely heavily on river shipping. Death toll is unknown. Many people permanently moved.


Yes Papua New Guinea sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.


Yes Cholera Epidemic, December 2009 (1,500 cases and 35 deaths)

Extreme Temperatures

Yes Southern Highlands province in September 2012 – 200,000 people were affected 


Yes Oro province in December 2007 – 150,000 people have been affected and at least 13,000 homeless (source NNG government)

Insect Infestation



Yes Very regularly in Highlands, due to inappropriate land use

Volcanic Eruptions

Yes Manam island volcanic eruption in 2004, 2015

High Waves / Surges

Yes The Aitape tsunami of 17 July 1998 was focussed on a 14-km sector of coastline centred on the villages of Arop, Warapu and Nimas. The wave height was 10 m or more and all structures within 400-500 m of the shoreline were destroyed. More than 2200 people were killed and 10,000 survivors were forced to relocate inland.


Yes -

High Winds

Yes -

Other Comments

Climate change is projected to impact heavily on agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the Pacific islands, leading to increased food insecurity and malnutrition (FAO)

Man-Made Issues

Civil Strife

Yes A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives. A peace deal signed in 2001 provided the framework for the election in 2005 of an autonomous government for Bougainville. 

International Conflict

No Relies on assistance from Australia to keep out illegal cross-border activities from primarily Indonesia, including goods smuggling, illegal narcotics trafficking, squatters and secessionists

Internally Displaced Persons

Yes Yes, many IDPs due to tribal conflict, natural disasters 

Refugees Present


The separatist struggle in the neighbouring Indonesian province of West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) prompted the flight of thousands of West Papuans into Papua New Guinea from the mid-1980s onwards (10,177 people in 2007). Many of them remain in border-area jungle camps.

Manus Regional Processing Centre was reopened in November 2012 to where asylum seekers to Australia would be sent there to be processed prior to resettlement in PNG as part of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between Australia and PNG (“the PNG solution”).

Landmines / UXO Present

No -

Other Comments

Papua New Guinea is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. An estimated 19% of the country’s labour market is comprised of child workers.


Website of Emdat - Natural Disaster Database

Disaster History in Papua New Guinea

Calamities and Seasonal Affects

Seasonal Affects on Transport



From (month) to (month)

Primary Road Transport

During the wet season, flash floods and landslides, particularly on stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen, can result in road closures. November to May in the South March to July in the North

November to May in the South

March to July in the North

Secondary Road Transport

Flooded roads susceptible to landslides and causing traffic to come to a standstill or be stranded.

November to May in the South

March to July in the North

Rail Transport

No rail transport within the country n/a

Air Transport

Airports may be temporary closed and air transport may face problems during volcano eruption n/a

Waterway Transport

During dry seasons and droughts, rivers and connected waterways may become impassible to surface vessels n/a

Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response


Disaster risk reduction and disaster management planning and implementation have been impeded by resource constraints, a serious lack of capacity in the 22 provinces/regions and their respective communities, and lack of a trained cadre of skilled disaster managers. The country’s vulnerability is made worse by incomplete hazard information, shortage of models of good practice, lack of strong legislative framework, and shortcomings of early warning arrangements and communication systems. Dual tracked disaster management and disconnect between national and provincial, ineffective devolved disaster management systems, competency

 At the national level, the development of an integrated framework will involve a whole- of-government approach to disaster risk reduction and disaster management with key agencies coordinating closely with local, provincial, national, regional and international stakeholders. Strengthening national legislative and regulatory frameworks will be necessary. Applicable and affordable models of best practices will need to be developed and adopted to support disaster risk reduction and disaster management. At the local level, partnerships between Government, Provincial Administrations, Provincial Disaster Coordinators, community groups and civil society will be necessary to support and enhance the resilience and management capacity of local communities. 

The Disaster Management Legislation

Papua New Guinea was among the first countries to adopt the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) in November 2005, but has been unable to integrate the actions into its national development priorities. The Disaster Management Plan, in place since 1987, is considered outdated and not relevant to contemporary best practices. The current operational document for response management is the 2003 National and Provincial Disaster and Risk Management Handbook, which contained information is totally outdated. The Papua New Guinea Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management National Framework for Action 2005–2015 is still in draft form and has not yet been adopted by the GoPNG. However various partners and stakeholders like UNDP (PNG) and the University of Papua New Guinea have been aligning their work plans and teachings based on this Framework.

 The National Disaster Management Act of 1984 (amended in 1987) is the country’s Disaster Risk Management law and focuses only on preparedness and response arrangements during disasters. A National Disaster Mitigation Policy was prepared and approved by the National Executive Council in November in 2003 and launched in early 2004. The Policy would have created the National Environment and Disaster Mitigation Authority whose responsibilities would have included not only disaster management but environment and disaster mitigation as well.

 The National Disaster Management Plan

A Disaster Management Plan has been in place since 1987. However, this Plan was under review and is expected to be completed and endorsed by the Government in 2009. The responsibility for Programming and Projects Planning to reflect the aims and the objectives of the National Disaster Management Plan is vested on the National Disaster Committee (NDC). The National Disaster Management Plan provides guidance and direction for disaster management activities for all stakeholders and partners throughout the country, including all levels and sectors, both government and non-government. The plan has an aim, objectives and outlines the roles and responsibilities for various government levels, departments, agencies, authorities and communities. It encourages self-reliance, as it is one of the greatest assets in coping with the threat of disasters.

 The plan and Act complement each other, and they have other supporting documents such as the Mitigation Policy, Five Year Cooperate Plan, Supporting Work plans, Standard Operating Procedures, and National and Provincial Response Plans, and the PNG Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management National Framework for Action 2005—2015.

Papua New Guinea National Disaster Management Plan and Structure

Papua New Guinea National Disaster Management Framework Structure

4.1 Papua New Guinea Government Contact List

Humanitarian Community

NGOs those are active in Disaster Management in PNG include the PNG Red Cross Society, OXFAM, World Vision, Salvation Army, CARE, MSF, church groups and the Council of Social Services. These organizations, active in the country with disaster and emergency programs, have representatives in most of the Provinces and Districts of the country. As part of effective coordination and monitoring of short term and long term responses, only registered NGOs are now permitted to involve in any emergency or disaster situation.

Disaster Management Team (DMT)

The Government of PNG and the UN system have also established a Disaster Management Team (DMT) mechanism, which comprises all the key agencies working on DRM with Government, including development partners, NGOs, church-based organisations, and is co-chaired by the Director of NDC and UN Resident Coordinator with a Disaster Risk Management consultant from the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office providing secretarial support.

 Some Disaster Management Team activities include in theory: following up on the implementation of the UNDAC Mission recommendations; revision of the existing national contingency plan; ensuring that coordination mechanisms are in place; and becoming the Inter-Agency Standing Committee in case of a disaster.

4.2 Papua New Guinea Humanitarian Agency Contact List

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