Aid distribution remains a priority in Solomons | Pacific Beat

Aid distribution remains a priority in Solomons

Aid distribution remains a priority in Solomons

Updated 10 April 2014, 9:12 AEST

As relief efforts continue after the flash floods in Solomon Islands, some harrowing personal accounts of the disaster are starting to filter through.


One ten-year-old boy was rescued after being swept out to sea, clinging first to a mattress and then to a floating tree.

But the boys' mother, two brothers and a sister didn't make it.

He says his mother didn't believe the flood waters would reach their home.

Lawrence Hillary was World Vision's response manager in Solomon Islands after the Temotu tsunami two years ago, and now he's filling the same role for the international aid group in Honiara and wider Guadalcanal after the floods.

He says the situation has caused major damage to the lives of people, and it will be difficult to pick up the pieces.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Lawrence Hillary, response manager, World Vision, Solomon Islands

HILLARY: Well the stories that people are telling were quite moving and people saying that the floods they were taken by surprise and have caused a lot of impact to the lives of the people here, especially those who are residing along the rivers.
EWART: What sort of picture do you at World Vision have at the moment of the extent of the problem that you're dealing with? For example the number of people who are homeless at the moment, how do those figures stand, because we're told those in the evacuation centres are being encouraged to return to their homes if possible, how many don't have homes to go to?
HILLARY: The picture right now in those evacuation centres you have lots of people who don't have anywhere to go because of their homes have already been destroyed. You also have a certain group of people who have their houses badly destroyed, and the government is wanting the people to return to their communities or island communities as soon as possible to move them away from the schools. This situation is a bit complex now, unless the government really comes up with some solutions that would help different categories of people, so I think the government is doing their very best right now to address different categories of situations where some have already lost their homes, some from the elements, they can still go back. Some of these people cannot even go back to their islands and the government has to find a place for resettlement. And when we talk about resettlement issues, this is a big challenge for the government to address at this point in time.
EWART: So from World Vision's perspective and in your role as response manager for World Vision, what are your priorities at the moment?
HILLARY: At the moment our priority is on distribution of necessary non-food items in the Honiara city boundaries, very much the evacuation centres. We are also focussing on the Guadalcanal province where we have another team that is focussing on our response to the Guadalcanal claims and other affected areas.
EWART: As I mentioned you were involved in operations in Temotu after the tsunami two years ago, how would you compare the two disasters in terms of the impact that they're having on the people of Solomon Islands?
HILLARY: I think both are disasters, but I think for Temotu and Honiara it's very much different. So I'm learning that the Temotu tsunami though has caused a lot of impact in people's lives, in a rural context there's a whole lot of different approaches to help we do response. But in Honiara there are a lot of complexities which affect data, information that is required to address when we do response. So we are looking at a context where people evacuated into schools within Honiara, we are looking at a context where people who are affected, we have this strong practical Won Tok system we address to our relatives, so there are people within those centres who can first go back to their relatives during the day, but because they are also hearing that oh, aid agencies are also helping people who evacuated to those centres. And then during the day they come back to the centres. So you have a lot of in and out migration from those particular centres during the day, because there was no strategic management in those centres. You also have people who have lost family, you have left their villages, who have left to their relative houses to mourn and bury their dead, and when they return their names are not on the list. So during the distribution in those centres you also wait for them. So a decent movement of people within those centres without properly capturing the different data is some of the complexities when we do distributions of non-food items, which we are mandated to, and that's some of the experience so far.
EWART: So Lawrence it would appear that at this stage a week after the floods hit Honiara and surrounding areas, that we don't have an absolutely precise picture of how many people have been affected, certainly even how many people were killed as a result of the floods? There may be more bad news to come?
HILLARY: That's right. At the moment we'll still continue to rely on the National Disaster Management agency to be updated with the data, as we do have any other data on hand at the moment that will give us the names and the numbers. We do have a fair number of people in evacuation centres, but if the government or the inter-agencies want to strategically look at the different disaster data within any particular evacuation centre, at the moment we don't have such information at hand still.

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