UNICEF Papua New Guinea wins 2018 Global Staff Team Award

Humanitarian response and support to 2018 PNG earthquakes

Noreen Chambers
UNICEF staff group photo
19 June 2019

PORT MORESBY, 19 JUNE 2019 -  The UNICEF country office in Papua New Guinea has, for the first time, won a Global Staff Team Award for its humanitarian support and response to the 2018 earthquakes.

UNICEF PNG was one of the first responders on the ground following the earthquake and rapidly scaled up relief operations, whilst at the same time deploying surge capacity from 14 UNICEF offices around the world including New York, Copenhagen and Bangkok, to help provide immediate life-saving assistance to 270,000 people including 125,000 children who desperately needed it.

A child sitting on the roadside in Southern Highlands Province
James Mepham
A young child victim of the 2018 PNG earthquakes.

“The earthquake emergency for children was in PNG, and yet we willingly received huge regional and global support that allowed us to collaborate with a range of key players in the country to provide immediate life-saving support to all the children who were affected by the earthquake." 

David Mcloughlin, UNICEF Representative
A child sitting in a field
James Mepham
A young child in Mendi, Southern Highlands Province, who survived the earthquake.

“We couldn’t have done this without the partnership and support of the National and Provincial Governments, Churches, NGOs, private sector, donors, local and international media and all the UN sister agencies in PNG. We thank you all, Mcloughlin added.

The UNICEF Global Staff Team Award recognizes and highlights outstanding staff team performances worldwide in collaboration and cooperation with external stakeholders. UNICEF PNG is one of three countries in the world who won this award.

Two young children standing behind wooden posts
James Mepham
Two young children in Mendi, Southern Highlands Province, pose for a photo.

UNICEF faced an unprecedented situation in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes. Life-saving assistance had to be quickly organised in an unchartered active conflict zone, with almost no UN operational presence, limited implementing partners and severely damaged infrastructure. Tribal violence was a constant risk and staff had to withstand life-threatening attacks more than once.

Despite security and transportation challenges, UNICEF quickly established an operational presence working out of the Catholic Diocese of Mendi, one of the few organizations with a widespread presence in the affected areas who became our main implementing partner

UNICEF supplies
Gonzalo Bell
UNICEF immediately brought in life-saving supplies for communities affected by the earthquakes.

“UNICEF was a strong contributor to the Government-led emergency response through an integrated approach to health and nutrition; access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; children’s access to safe learning spaces for basic education including early learning; and psychosocial support for children including parenting education for parents and primary caretakers of children.” 

David Mcloughlin, UNICEF Representative

UNICEF, along with the with the UN family in PNG, has turned this tragedy into an opportunity by seizing the chance to assess the need for an area-wide, long-term development programme for an underdeveloped region that received limited attention from donors and international organizations in the past.