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Papua New Guinea Gets Emergency Aid

February 11, 1998

KAMULAI, Papua New Guinea (AP) _ Heavy monsoon clouds lifted today in Papua New Guinea’s mountainous Central province, allowing military helicopters to deliver emergency food to drought-stricken villages.

Villagers from remote Kamulai, perched on the side of one of the thousands of steep ravines that are unreachable by land, ran to help unload an Australian Army Chinook helicopter carrying 6 1/2 tons of rice, flour and cooking oil.

The supplies will help 300 people who have been living on a starvation diet of leaves and nuts from pandanus palms during the area’s worst drought in 100 years.

Recent rains have allowed replanting in some areas, but aid agencies say the staple kau-kau sweet potato will not be mature enough to eat for three months.

French Catholic missionary Father Pierre Morant said some food was growing again in Kamulai, which was better off than many villages in his highlands parish.

``They lived for months on pandanus nuts,″ Morant said. ``It was not good at all, a lot of gastroenteritis and malnutrition in the children.″

Since last October, Australian and Papua New Guinea defense forces have delivered more than 2,000 tons of emergency food aid to remote villages hardest hit by the drought, blamed on the El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific.

Hundreds of thousands of others of this Pacific Ocean nation’s 4 million people have little food and are relying on ``famine foods″ such as nuts and leaves.

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