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IOM, USAID Train Local Communities in Papua New Guinea on Safe Shelter Construction

Port Moresby – Globally, Papua New Guinea (PNG) ranks among the top ten countries at risk of natural hazards. The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events are placing more human settlements at risk.

The effects of natural hazards and extreme weather conditions on local communities include the destruction of shelter and population displacement.

With thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) for the financial assistance, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was able to enhance the preparedness capacity of 114 women and 112 men through trainings on participatory awareness on safe shelter construction (build back safer).

In partnership with the National Disaster Centre and Provincial Disaster Centres, IOM delivered the trainings from 17 October to 11 November 2022 to target communities in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), Morobe, East New Britain, and Western provinces.

“IOM is proud to partner with the USAID and the PNG National Disaster Centre to support the provincial administrations, Provincial Disaster Centres in building resilient communities to improve the wellbeing of communities by preparing them in advance to cushion the impact of disasters. Addressing current and future challenges requires the strong commitment of all that focus on community-driven and well-coordinated action which is what we have observed across the latest training series as well,” said Serhan Aktoprak, Chief of Mission, IOM Papua New Guinea.

Designed on key principles of safe shelter construction, the training sought to equip participants with disaster preparedness and mitigation awareness and skills.

“This training is timely for the Garam community because we have been badly affected by the recent earthquake and most of our houses collapsed,” said George Rifi from the Garam community in Morobe province. “It is also an eye-opener. We live in the valley and are exposed to strong winds. We now better understand the risks to this community and will work towards addressing them by building resilient shelters,” he added.

“This training is very informative. I realize that I did not consider safety measures when building my house and will now make an effort to reinforce them,” said another participant, Sare Dum.

The training was co-facilitated by IOM and local authorities that had been trained by IOM. The training co-facilitator and North Fly District Disaster Coordinator in Western province, Max Maina, encouraged the participants to educate members of their community on safe shelter construction, saying, “The information shared in this training is important and I urge you all to raise awareness on safe shelter construction to members of your community.”

“I used to think that my house is stronger and safer because I used iron sheets for roofing. This training has helped me to understand that hazards such as strong winds can easily blow my roof away if it is not secured properly. I will work together with my family and apply the knowledge from the training to improve our house,” highlighted Christine Kay from Buka Ward in East New Britain province. “The safety of my children is very important, and I now appreciate more the need to build a stronger and safer house.  I feel empowered and will work together with my family to secure additional building materials to improve our house,” said Aileen Paru of Lemanmanu Community in AROB. 

The shortage of local bush materials used to build houses was highlighted as one of the challenges experienced by community members when building or improving their shelters, owing to population growth and increased demand, especially for kunai (local grass) thatching grass and pipit (local bush material) that they use to make walls for their shelters.

The participants discussed the importance of preserving and better managing their resources and agreed to establish community committees that will advocate for sustainable natural resources. They highlighted the need to put a stop to the burning of kunai grass. 

The trainings were conducted in the target communities. In addition to the training on participatory awareness on safe shelter construction, IOM delivered disaster awareness to up to 442 women, men, youth, and children from the target communities.

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For further information, please contact at IOM Port Moresby, Getachew Mekuria, Tel: +675 4 3213655 Email: gmekuria@iom.int or Peter Murorera, Tel: +675 321 36 55, Email: pmurorera@iom.int

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