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Oxfam emergency workers leave for Solomons - water, food and shelter are the priorities

Oxfam is deploying additional emergency workers to help with the assessment, recovery and emergency support in the aftermath of the Solomon Islands earthquake and tsunami that left dozens killed and rendered thousands of people homeless and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

“All indications are that this is a major disaster for the Pacific and a large number of people are seriously affected,” said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director, Barry Coates. “A large number of people on the island of Gizo, northwest of the capital Honiara have been affected, but further assessment is needed to establish clear immediate and longer-term needs of the population.”

The team will include disaster management specialists and a water and sanitation specialist, a public health officer and a shelter expert.

Information from the affected area indicate that power and telephone services have been restored, but that most shops are still closed and people are afraid to return to their homes as aftershocks are still being felt.

Oxfam’s Disaster Management Officer in the Solomons, Rex Tara, has led the initial joint government/NGO assessment team and set up the provincial Emergency Coordination Office.

Oxfam applauds the generous response by the New Zealand government to the disaster relief operations and is working closely with NZAID to ensure that assistance reaches those that need it most.

“This is a race against time and it is becoming clear that access to clean water and proper sanitation will be crucial over the next few weeks, as there are already reports of outbreaks of water-borne disease. Shelter and food are also critical elements of the initial response. We are providing aid in coordination with our other key counterparts on the ground, other aid agencies and very importantly working with and through local disaster response structures such as the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO),” added Coates.

Oxfam has a long-established programme in the Solomons and a network of partners across the country. It is becoming apparent that help will be needed in the longer term to help with reconstruction and Oxfam New Zealand will contribute to that response.

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