AFTER THE QUAKE

Through the investment, Meggy received a backpack filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books. Stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children never had access to these types of school supplies.
Through the investment, Meggy received a backpack filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books. Stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children never had access to these types of school supplies. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019

IN THE REMOTE VILLAGES OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, UNICEF BRINGS MUCH-NEEDED RELIEF TO CHILDREN LIVING IN FEAR AFTER A MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE LEVELED HOMES AND DISPLACED FAMILIES THROUGH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT FUNDED FIRST EMERGENCY RESPONSE

‘Shortage of food and fear were the main things that affected children. When we started school, we could see that children had lost weight. We didn’t have enough food to eat but we’re slowing building back.’

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Papua New Guinea

In February 2018, a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake ripped through Mongulu village, Mt. Bosavi, in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. It was the first time 8-year-old Meggy Tom had ever experienced an earthquake and it was a terrifying ordeal. The shaking and rumbling continued for weeks afterwards. “We could hear it coming and would run away and hide in our houses,” says Meggy.

The earthquake devastated the small, remote community. Mr. Sasobe Hay is the Head Teacher of Mongulu Primary and Elementary School where Meggy studies.

Mr. Sasobe Hay (right) with Mr. Dudilama, a teacher at another remote school in Mt. Bosavi, at an Education in Emergencies training of trainers course in Tari financed by Education Cannot Wait and facilitated by UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019
Mr. Sasobe Hay (right) with Mr. Dudilama, a teacher at another remote school in Mt. Bosavi, at an Education in Emergencies training of trainers course in Tari financed by Education Cannot Wait and facilitated by UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019

“Almost half of the school stayed away after the earthquake, just three weeks into the school year. Some students said they didn’t have any food as their parents were traumatized and too scared to go to the kitchen gardens. Creeks and rivers were dirty and muddy, and we couldn’t fetch water to drink and wash,” says Hay.

Precious kitchen gardens were trampled by pigs and wild animals, because the earthquake had destroyed the fences protecting them.

“Shortage of food and fear were the main things that affected children,” Hay says. “We couldn’t harvest any food. And with people scared to plant new gardens, people were getting hungry. When we started school, we could see that children had lost weight. We didn’t have enough food to eat but we’re slowing building back.”

A COORDINATED RESPONSE

A year on, Meggy and her classmates in Elementary 1 giggle excitedly as they open their new school backpacks provided by UNICEF through an Education Cannot Wait-financed first emergency response. They are filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books, resources that many have never had before – stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children have never even been outside the area.

Getting the backpacks to Mongulu so that the children could resume learning was a logistical challenge. There is still no road access to the whole of the Bosavi area, and Tari, the nearest town, is a three- or four-day walk through the forest. Through the Education Cannot Wait investment, UNICEF worked closely with the Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea, Hela Provincial Division of Education and missionaries based in Mongulu, and a plane was chartered for the 20-minute flight to deliver supplies from Tari to Mongulu. By the end of March 2019, Education in Emergency kits containing essentials such blackboard paint and chalk, as well as 523 students kits and 15 teachers kits had been delivered to Mongulu Elementary and Primary Schools alone.

The investment is having lasting results for the girls and boys impacted by the earthquake. With Education Cannot Wait support, UNICEF delivered a total of 1,126 students kits, 43 teachers kits, Education in Emergency kits and tents to three schools in the remote Mt. Bosavi area. UNICEF also provided training on Education in Emergencies, attended by hundreds of teachers, including Meggy’s Head Teacher, Sasobe Hay.

Meggy and her classmates are excited about going back to school. Through the coordinated response, they have a chance to begin learning again and establish a degree of normality in their young lives.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

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Papua New Guinea - Bosavi

‘THE LONGEST NIGHT’

Photo Noreen Chambers/UNICEF
Photo UNICEF/Noreen Chambers

WITH SUPPORT FROM EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT, TEACHERS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA ARE HELPING CHILDREN TO RECOVER FROM THE TRAUMA OF THE 2018 EARTHQUAKE WITH TEMPORARY LEARNING SPACES, GENDER-SENSITIVE APPROACHES AND NEW TRAININGS TO DEAL WITH THE CHALLENGING TIMES AHEAD

Ms. Julie James Rodney, the teacher in charge of the Injua II Elementary School in Papua New Guinea’s remote and wild Kutubu District describes living through the horrors of the February 2018 earthquake and its aftershocks as “the longest night.”

During that long night, children of Rodney’s school lost everything: their homes were shattered, and their school was destroyed, profoundly wounding the young hearts and minds. In the wake of the disaster, many families struggled to get enough to eat or drink and returning to school seemed like a far-fetched dream for many.

In all, some 127,000 people required emergency humanitarian assistance after the quake. Half of the schools in the affected area were partially damaged with three totally destroyed. Student attendance dropped drastically. As a consequence of the quake, lawlessness and tribal violence spiked, further increasing the vulnerability of people. Girls and women in particular face increased risks of gender-based violence. This affects the academic and social development of girls and boys in the region, putting their futures in jeopardy.

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Photo UNICEF/Noreen Chambers

FROM THE FOUNDATIONS UP

Rodney lives with her husband and three daughters in the school grounds where she teaches. In the morning they assessed the damage from the quake, finding the roof of her home blown away, the foundation of the school building ripped apart, and collapsed buildings and destruction everywhere.

Photo UNICEF/Noreen Chambers
Ms. Julie James Rodney. Photo UNICEF/Noreen Chambers

“People’s houses were flattened to the ground and covered in debris. It was a miracle that no one in my village was killed. We still feel the tremors and they send chills down my spine. We are still so anxious that this thing ­– or something worse – will happen again,” said Rodney. “It was difficult to get the children back into a school routine because they were deeply traumatized. They found it difficult to concentrate and worst of all they would react to any noise or bang and run out of the classroom shouting ‘earthquake.’ They are still scared, and we have not been able to fully re-establish their routine or make them feel safe again. It’s a long process.”

Rodney and hundreds of other teachers like her are receiving support from a fast-acting US$1.5 million emergency response allocation from Education Cannot Wait. Coordinated by UNICEF, the programme is implemented on the ground by trusted local and international partners that include the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the Catholic Diocese of Mendi, The Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea and Save the Children.

The programme was designed to get children back in school, to establish temporary learning spaces, and to support these communities in building back better after the quake.

To build community buy-in and ownership, community leaders, school boards of management, church leaders and provincial and district education office representatives were consulted and involved in the programme from the start and included in ongoing school monitoring visits. Children and youth were actively involved in both the design phase and in selecting sites for water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Hygiene clubs have encouraged children to improve handwashing practices. Parents and community members are being engaged on multiple levels to encourage school attendance.

The programme has made great progress in its first six months (as reported in October 2018): close to 3,000 girls and 3,900 boys were enrolled in safe temporary learning spaces, and more than 7,000 children (43 per cent girls) accessed psychosocial first aid services and were trained on how to best prepare to face such disasters. Training workshops for teachers like Rodney were also provided so they can help children cope with their trauma.

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PUTTING GIRLS FIRST

Even before the quake, Papua New Guinea had alarming rates of insecurity and gender-based violence. Two out of three women have suffered from some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, while over 40 per cent of men have admitted to raping someone (ODI, 2015). To help address this, ECW’s investment focused on supporting the safety of girls and gender equality. Gender-sensitive facilities where both girls and boys have access to toilets and sanitation facilities and services in schools were designed. This includes provisions to allow girls to manage menstrual hygiene with dignity. In addition, gender topics were included in the training workshops to raise awareness on how disasters exacerbate gender inequalities and gender-based violence and how to foster a more protective environment.

Rodney was one of the teachers that received advanced training from UNICEF in close collaboration with Save the Children through the programme.

“These resources will help us to start teaching again – properly. The children will be so excited to see the [new] resources,” said Rodney.
Papua New Guinea

Story by UNICEF Papua New Guinea, with Greg Benchwick, Education Cannot Wait

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: ECW ANNOUNCES US$1.5 MILLION TO RESTORE EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN AFFECTED BY EARTHQUAKE

New York, 1 June 2018 – The Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund announces an allocation of US$1.5 million to bring thousands of children back to school in Papua New Guinea. The island nation was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake at the end of February which affected more than half a million people and damaged key infrastructures, including hundreds of schools.

This ECW emergency response allocation will provide resources for humanitarian aid organizations to immediately start restoring education services, particularly through the setting up of temporary learning spaces. The funding will cover activities for a period of one year.

“It is urgent for children to recover a sense of normalcy in their lives after living through such a disaster. Going back to school is crucial to help them overcome the trauma they have endured and to ensure they continue to learn and thrive,” says ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif.

©UNICEF/Nybo: Lorina, 4, stands outside a makeshift tent where she has been living since a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 26 February 2018 destroyed her home in nearby Daga village, in Pimaga, Papua New Guinea.
©UNICEF/Nybo: Lorina, 4, stands outside a makeshift tent where she has been living since a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on 26 February 2018 destroyed her home in nearby Daga village, in Pimaga, Papua New Guinea

ECW’s emergency response allocation targets some of the areas most affected by the earthquake in the Southern Highlands Province and in Hela Province. Thanks to ECW’s support, children will benefit from a safe learning environment while damaged infrastructure is being rehabilitated. They will also receive psychological support as well as learning and recreational materials. At total of 10,000 teachers will also be supported through these funds.

This is ECW’s second First Emergency Response allocation this year, further to a $3 million allocation announced in April to support the education response in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read the full press release here.