News release

Displaced families’ situation ‘still tough’, says ICRC

PORT MORESBY – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned by the ongoing humanitarian situation in Tari District, Hela Province, where hundreds of people have been forced to seek shelter in neighbouring communities following a tribal fight that has left at least 12 people dead.

The conflict, which started in December following an argument between members of two rival clans, resulted in the burning of at least 245 houses in the village of Kikita II.

"Hundreds of families still haven't been able to return to their homes," said Kakhaber Khasaia, head of the ICRC office in Mount Hagen, which covers the Highlands region. "They're living in cramped conditions and have been forced to rely on the goodwill of host communities to survive. It's very tough for them."

On Wednesday March 23 the ICRC distributed 284 relief kits in two simultaneous distributions to 223 families from the Homaria and Kopage clans. The previous day it also distributed another 24 kits to 19 families from the Pirija and Tipa clans, which were also affected by the violence.

The kits, which contain blankets, mosquito nets, tools, tarpaulins and cooking sets, are intended to relieve some of the pressure on displaced families and their hosts.

"The operation took a lot of planning. There are tricky logistical challenges to working in the Highlands, such as the quality of the roads and the security situation, but in the end we were able to reach the people who really needed help," said Mr Khasaia.

With compensation yet to be settled between the two clans, affected families have been unable to begin rebuilding their lives.

"We just ran for our lives, so it's really hard," said Rose Benson, a health worker whose house was burned down. "I cannot express how I feel."

Mrs Benson said many families had been forced to crowd together in friends' houses.

"It's unhygienic and unsafe," she said. "Most of the nights we don't sleep because we are scared. When we hear guns we want to run for our lives."

For further information, please contact:
Dan Waites, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 708 80 624
Betty Oala, ICRC Port Moresby, tel. +675 709 93 061