By Gorethy Kenneth - Post Courier

Christmas was bleak for more than 5000 people in the atolls of the Autonomous Bougainville region. as they scratched for food to survive - most only living on coconut and fish.

While the rest of PNG was celebrating during Christmas, the people of Mortlock, Tasman and Nuguria joined their fellow Carteret Islanders pleading for urgent relief assistance from both the ABG and the National (PNG) Government during the festive season.

While the Bougainville administration was battling a K300,000 in arrears from one local business house in Buka from relief supplies obtained earlier this year for other low-lying and affected islands, Pororan, Saposa and including Carterets, another business house was also knocking on the ABG for their bills of thousands of kina to be settled as well. The bills were accrued by the ABG for the supply of rice to people of affected atolls and othe islanders.

In a letter to the National Disaster Centre director Martin Mose, by acting chief administrator Raymond Masono on the eve of Christmas Day, he urgently requested two things -  for relief assistance to the atoll islanders and for the urgent settlement of the outstanding bills from major suppliers of rice and other store goods, plus transportation costs.

"Unfortunately, due to the effects of the sea swell and the king tide in December 2008 and the ongoing rise in sea level, the other atoll islands like Mortlock, Tasman and Nuguria have now been affected and face critical shortages of food. Their staple diet of swamp taro has also been affected and there's inconsistent supply of taro during harvet time," Mr Masono said in his letter.

"Funding for the disaster office in the ABG 2007-2008 Budget has been adequate to respond to the relief assistance particularly for the Carteret islanders alone, however, in 2009 funds were exhausted early in September due to the reason that the relief assistance had been extended to other atolls like Mortlock, Tasman and Nuguria who are now experiencing similar situations as that of the Carteret islanders. As a result all funds were exhausted before close of business in December 2009.

"As I write this letter the people in the Carterets and the other islanders are in life threatening situation and are in dire needof relief assistance," he said.

ABG needs at least K2 million to respond to this issue but Mr Masono needs about K200,000to purchase food supplies for the affected islanders.

3 December 2009  Paradise sinking (Piul Island, PNG)
9 December 2009  The sea is killing our island paradise (Carterets, PNG)

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