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When and how are you going to help us?

THE culture of abuse of disaster related assistance to victims of natural disaster has been an uncontrollable norm in Solomon Islands.

This attitude seems to be a trend, among certain concern governmental organizations and NGOs.

While in effect, the ruling government, overseas partners and international organisations have always been alert and hospitable to offer suitable and timely assistance, both financially and materially, in most cases, records and experiences have shown that those assistance have not been fully delivered fairly to enhance restoration and rehabilitation of the victims’ livelihood in the past natural disasters situations in Solomon Islands.

In the recent past, there have been numerous complaints concerning abuses, misappropriation and embezzlement of funds and of the much needed goods and material supplies by those authorities and people responsible in managing and coordinating natural disaster aids to victims of natural disasters.

Solomon Islands is prone to natural disaster.

With cyclone seasons due every year, and now earthquake and tsunami are increasingly frequent, islanders have continued to suffer these natural atrocities.

But unfortunately while sufficient assistance have been offered by overseas friends for the victim’s rescue and rehabilitation, the means of assistance delivered is minimal, and on many occasions, inappropriate because either the funds have been diverted, or misused.

Suitable material supplies that supposed to be delivered to victims were also misappropriated by the so-called disaster volunteers and managers.

Thus the unfortunate trend now is that if someone accidently becomes a victim of a natural disaster, he or she would remain there un-rehabilitated unless some close relatives or friends step in to his or her rescue.

Or in many cases, one has to rise from the rumble of disaster himself and become his own ‘Good Samaritan’.

Indeed, the typical scenarios of this category, are the victims of 2007 tsunami in the Western part of Solomon Islands and, the victims of 2014 April flooding.

Although there had been much media publications about the funding assistance poured into the country from abroad purposely for the victim’s rehabilitations and livelihood, unfortunately, nothing tangible has occurred to restore their livelihood.

In fact, over 75 percent of these victims continue to suffer up until today.

Their situation have even got worsen as the bad memory of these disasters wear them down, coupled by the agony of being robbed of their rights to be assisted by the so-called ‘disaster relief workers’.

These experiences have gradually wear them down day after day. I am sure a research into these post-natural disaster environments would reveal some terrible and wondered results.

I only hope the victims of the recent earthquake would be treated differently and that their dignity of humanity will be respected and not compromised.

However, there is fear that the experience of previous bad rehabilitation practices would repeat themselves.

Recently, after the occurrence of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on December 9, that struck largely the Southern Malaita, Makira and Guadalcanal, the Minister for Environment has instantly announced a disaster rehabilitation package of SBD$3million.

Indeed, the announcement has quickly raised many hopes and aspirations for restoration and rehabilitation of the victims.

There have been media publications about the temporary disaster relief activities in process in these earthquake struck- zones, but there have not been any clear publications or statements clarifying the strategic stages and forms of assistance that will be delivered to the victims.

The victim’s conditions of loss are varied.

Some have lost permanent buildings, some have lost semi-permanent or thatched roof houses, and others have lost household belongings and etc.

The situation begs for mores answers.

When and how are you going to help us with the said millions of dollars?

Is the old poor attitude and manner of disaster relief management and delivery still on?

Are these were the same old people who misused the funding assistance and robbed the material supplies and good intended for victims in the previous disaster relief programmes?

These questions must be resoundingly asked and ensured that something is done to reform the system of disaster relief management and delivery.

From the outset, there is an urgent need to reform the system.

First I suggest that the information gathering and assessment must be improved.

And secondly, a swift reform in the management and delivery of disaster supplies to victims must be carried out.

One of the notable failure in assessing the disaster hit- area, is that no attempt is made to ensure the victims details, contact or next of kin contact are gathered.

This is important to ensure that victims are constantly informed of the stages and progress of the disaster relief plans and activities.

As telecommunication and mobile network systems are commonly popular across the country, detail data concerning the victims in including mobile phones and emails must be collected and kept in the system.

This is to ensure that the latest information updates concerning assistance should be directly conveyed to the victims.

When such important information have not reached the victims concern, frustration and even trauma could rise even further.

But furthermore, keeping the victims in suspense of such important information could further allow people who are engaged in delivery of disaster supplies, opportunities to misuse or steal the much needed supplies.

Or, in some cases, con- groups and organisations which are often formed in Honiara or in some certain villages to solicit funds in the name of the victims would take advantage of this situation and rob the supplies.

Such problems would occur because no contact would be obtained to verify the genuineness of the victims or the groups.

Against this scenario and experience, I would urgently request the responsible officers of the Ministry of Environment, such as the Minister, the Permanent Secretary and the Director of NDMO office to come out publically and clearly outline the rehabilitation strategy and plan in the media, more specifically in the print media.

What forms of assistances are going to be delivered and within what times frame?

It’s almost over a month now but the victims of the recent earthquake are not aware or fully informed of these important information.

They need to be informed?

SANDRA RAMOTALAU

MAKIRA PROVINCE



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