Update on Drought Conditions in the Pacific: Palau and Papua New Guinea
In their weekly regional update, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UN OCHA) reports that Palau is the latest country in the Pacific to “declare an El Niño-related State of Emergency” (ReliefWeb/UN OCHA). On March 22, Palau’s President issued an Executive Order to declare a State of Emergency due to extreme drought, citing weather reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) indicating that the cumulative rainfall over Koror (Palau’s largest town and commercial center) in the past four months was the “lowest recorded since 1951,” and that the trend is likely to continue, worsening conditions all islands and atolls of Palau (Republic of Palau, NOAA).
According to the Executive Order, the Ngerimel Dam—one of two sources of water for the Koror-Airai Water System—has run out of water and been shut down, and the only remaining source of freshwater—the Ngerikiil River—is at a critically low level, producing only 19% of its normal water supply. As of March 22, Palau Public Utilities Corporation has placed parts of Koror, Airai, Ngarchelong, Ngaraard, Ngatpang, and Peleliu states on an “Emergency Water-Rationing Schedule” (Republic of Palau).
In Papua New Guinea, prolonged drought conditions and frost have affected the food security of nearly 1.5 million people, with more than 162,000 people facing extreme food shortages in the Western, Southern Highland, Enga, Chimbu, and Milne provinces (ReliefWeb/UN OCHA). In response to the significant agricultural impact of the 2015-2016 El Niño, drought-tolerant-crop seeds and drip-irrigation systems have been distributed to assist 80,000 subsistence farming families in the four worst-affected provinces (ReliefWeb/FAO).
RVA Profile: Papua New Guinea
This Week in Hazards:
- Storm Katie brought heavy rains, strong winds, and storm surge to several areas of the United Kingdom and France as it moved across northern Europe earlier this week (ECHO). According to media reports, Katie’s strong winds affected air travel in England and France, leading to cancelled or diverted flights due to safety concerns; severe weather also left thousands without electricity (TWC, Floodlist) As of March 31, flood alerts remain in force for the Midlands, Northeast, and Southeast regions of England due in part to high river levels (MetOffice, Environment Agency).
- Since March 28, Winter Storm Troy has brought more than two feet of snow to parts of the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, including Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah states (TWC, NOAA). Light to moderate snowfall is forecast over parts of Colorado and New Mexico into next week (WPC, WPC Map). As of March 31, winter weather advisories remain in effect for northern New Mexico, indicating that—although brief—periods of snowfall will cause travel difficulties (NWS).
- Since the first cases in the ongoing yellow fever outbreak in Angola were reported in the Luanda province in December, suspected cases have been reported in 16 of the country’s 18 provinces. As of March 21, the number of suspected and confirmed cases reported has reached more than 1,100, including 168 deaths. Although Luanda province remains the most affected, reported cases in other provinces are increasing (WHO).
Current Hazard Warnings
Flood: Indonesia, Australia (Queensland), England, United States (Louisiana, Arkansas), Canada (Ontario)
Winter Storm: Canada (Eastern), United States (Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana)
Avalanche: Canada (British Columbia)
Tornado: United States (Southern)
High Surf: United States (Hawaii)
Volcano: United States (Alaska)
Drought: Southeast Asia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Southern Africa, Madagascar, United States (Western)
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