Dial for help: The surprise hotline helping quake survivors in Papua New Guinea

More than two months after Papua New Guinea’s strongest earthquake in almost a century, stranded survivors are turning to an unexpected lifeline: a small domestic violence hotline run by a non-governmental organisation [ChildFund].

Although the risks of violence against women rise after disasters, most callers aren’t women. They’re men reaching out for support, enquiring about how to obtain food, shelter, and other services, or fearful of violence that has broken out in some areas after tribal clashes.

Map of Papua New Guinea showing where earthquake hit in February 2018

The toll-free line has been ringing almost non-stop with calls from people whose lives are still upended by the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the country’s remote highlands region on 26 February.

The quake triggered landslides that toppled villages, wiped out food supplies, and blocked key access roads. Authorities say the disaster killed dozens and left an estimated 270,000 in need of help. But tens of thousands of displaced people in isolated areas are still waiting for food, water, shelter, and other emergency aid.

“In a way, it was one of the only available help sources for people,” said Sally Beadle, programme team leader on gender and child protection with ChildFund, which runs the hotline in cooperation with the Port Moresby-based Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee. “We see that many, many people who access the hotline probably have no access to any other face-to-face service.”

She added that people are desperate, “and what we hear is that people are hungry”.

Read the full article on IRIN.