A thousand smiles on Epi island
When Cyclone Pam hit, it was a long and horrifying for the people of epi island. in the aftermath, Communities are slowly
Story by Patricia Gil. Phtography by Patricia Gil and courtesy of Save the Children.
Organisation Save the Children has been undertaking projects to help the people of Epi get back on their feet. Based in Vanuatu since 1984, the notfor-profit organization implements a comprehensive program throughout the country focusing on the areas of child and maternal health, primary health care, early childhood education and child protection, and links community based results into provincial and national level initiatives. After the cyclone, it was ‘all hands on deck’ to devise and deliver immediate emergency aid response and post-cyclone recovery plans. Bringing in technical specialists in the areas of WASH, Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL), Health, Education, Shelter and Child Protection and recruiting an extra 41 national staff, the organization set up projects and delivered emergency aid to the cyclone affected areas in the country. In partnership with the NDMO and various ministries, they delivered emergency food rations, building equipment, tools, primary health training and education kits to the islands of Ambrym, Efate and its offshore islands, Epi and Tongoa.
Save the Children has also prioritized the rehabilitation of community water supplies and reconstruction of some of the destroyed aid posts and schools. On Epi, Save the Children deployed field manager Ben Brookman and a team of dedicated national staff to supervise relief aid and recovery projects on the island. “The first priority after the cyclone was to deliver water, sanitation kits, and other essential items to the communities,” explains Ben. Ginette Morris, staff member, explained how Save the Children delivered over 1,100 tarpaulins and hundreds of plastic buckets to allow
Previous page: This page top:
Ben Brookman, Taku Ben and children at the new kindergarten. Taku Ben and Henry Orah at Ngala school. Vanuatu Helicopters
Villagers carry cement up the hill to the water catchment. people alternative water collection as well as tools and kitchen kits to start rebuilding. Based at Elcress Agra Products Coconut Oil Mill in east Epi, the Save the Children staff have been supervising post-cyclone recovery projects in several villages. “The help from Elcress has been invaluable for us in that they’ve provided us with a base, including accommodation, storage facilities and online communication that allowed us to get these projects off the ground efficiently,” explained Ben. T he cyclone destroyed the crops, damaged the water catchment structures and contaminated the water sources of most of Epi, affecting thousands of people. The villages of Mate and Ngala rely on a mountaintop spring water catchment for their respective water supplies. The cyclone destroyed the spring water supply, cutting off water from the two villages and the local dispensary. Save the Children enlisted local builder and community leader Kerry William to supervise the repair and construction of the new water catchment. “There are no rivers next to the villages and the water source is a few hours walk up the hill, so after the cyclone we had no way of getting drinking water,” Kerry explained. “All we could do is dig the ground next to the shore to try to find some but the water here is also contaminated by the salt water.” Sandra Din, another staff member, worked with community members to re-
The new water catchment. Taku Ben, Henry Orah and Ben Brookman inside the new kindergarten. Delivering buckets for alternative water collection.
after-effects.” The New Zealand Army repaired the roof and internal walls of the school and Save the Children provided learning materials and toy kits for the school to be able to open up again. “We lost all our crops,” explained Henry. “Our main income comes from copra, cocoa, weaving handicrafts and sales of our vegetable gardens. All this was destroyed by the cyclone so the village right now does not have any possibility of generating cash. We have all started to plant peanuts, which have a three month turn-around but this is the only crop at the moment and if it wasn’t for the help of organizations such as Save the Children and the New Zealand Army, I don’t know how long it would have been before we had the materials and money to rebuild the school. We are immensely grateful for their help,” he added.
Ndonated by the World Food Program landed in Epi reaching a total of 7,423 people. The cargo was shipped from Santo to be delivered across the whole of Epi Island. “Our initial assessment told us how many households there were in every village and how many people in each household. With these numbers, we were able to allocate the right amount of food to each area and village to make sure that the distribution was equitable and reached everyone including those most vulnerable,” explains Ben. “We enlisted the help of the LC Sabrina as well as the coastal barge to deliver the food to each council area. Together with the NDMO and VMF members (Vanuatu Mobile Force), we delivered the cargo to main ports in each of the four council areas. Once in the port, the food was distributed by truck to each village where it was stored in the community nakamal or church. Each community had a list of its residents and each person could then come forward to receive their allocation,” Ben explains. National staff Kaltom James and Gwen Ayong said they learned a lot from the experience. “The full delivery took us a week, in rough seas. It was a logistic feat, considering that food had to be transported in barges and quickly unloaded and kept dry from the ocean and rain. There was a small window of weather when barges could offload and we really pushed the comfort limits here to make sure the food got where it needed to. We all came together and it was an outstanding example of government, NGO and community working together in a concerted and organized effort to deliver the aid successfully.” Ben reflected on how this type of work brings people together in a combined effort, “Responding to a disaster in an isolated area with poor transport and limited communication is hard work. Things take time as it is weather dependent and for example, when it rains, roads are no longer passable. It is logistically very complicated as everything must come from elsewhere and be transported. So things take time but eventually, everything gets done, the island way, slowly but surely”.
For further information contact Kevin Apsepa +675 73498523 or email@example.com.
goroka, Papua new guinea, 12th to 14th september. one of the most famous and exciting of the highlands cultural shows, the goroka show has been held every september since 1957, attracting over 1000 tribesmen and women representing over 70
The Goroka Show, PNG. Photo courtesy of Further Arts.
conference with the theme ‘ trading traditions: The role of art in the Pacific’s expansive exchange networks’ at the Fa’onelua Conference Centre in nuku’alofa. For centuries in the Pacific, even before european arrival, there have been physical as well as social, economic and political exchanges and interactions between Pacific islands and cultures via people, objects, technologies and ideologies. This conference seeks to explore how art has been part of these exchanges, moving across time and through communities, and how it has been influenced through the process.