Thousands will need long-term support following catastrophic flooding in the Solomon Islands

Published: 22 April 2014 20:44 CET

Three weeks after the worst flooding in Solomon Islands’ history, the lives of more than 50,000 people – 10 percent of the country – are still affected by the disaster.

More than 9,000 of those worst affected are still sheltering in over-crowded evacuation centres in Honiara, and for at least 1,500 of those in the centres, there is no home to return to on the edge of Mataniko River. This group faces at least 12 months in a transition centre, before the Government provides new lands for them away from the river. Other families are expected to return to their damaged homes this week to start repairs, allowing for the schools and university campus where they have been sheltering to reopen.

40,000 people in isolated, rural communities in the east of Guadalcanal Province also either lost homes completely or suffered major damage, had their vital food crops destroyed and water sources contaminated.

Teams from the The Solomon Islands Red Cross are navigating the damaged roads in Guadalcanal Plains with drinking water and vital relief supplies. Where they can’t access communities by truck, they are walking to reach families to assess the damage and make sure aid reaches those worst affected. Teams are returning with reports that in the 66 communities we have reached so far, all families have been affected.

Solomon Islands Red Cross Society Deputy Secretary General Clement Manuri says people are desperate for water and food and incidences of sickness, including diarrhoea and malaria, are increasing. “In terms of shelter, many homes will need extensive cleaning and repair after being inundated with water and mud, with some houses completely destroyed and damaged beyond repair,” he says. “Food gardens were destroyed, garden tools washed away and many water sources were contaminated by floodwaters.”

Emergency appeal to be launched this week

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will be launching an emergency appeal in the coming week, as it clear that more support is urgently needed to help prevent the spread of waterborne disease and assist people to rebuild their damaged homes.

“Thousands of families face months of recovery ahead to try to return to their normal lives. More emergency support is still needed in providing basic relief supplies, such as clean water, soap, mosquito nets and pots and pans. But we’re also looking at the longer term plans for how to help people recover their livelihoods and vital food crops – often the only source of food for their families,” says Manuri.

The National Society now has a 100-strong team of volunteers, as well as local and international emergency staff working around the clock. Water and sanitation teams have so far purified and delivered 600,000 liters of clean water to the 21 evacuation centres in Honiara and the rural communities in Guadalcanal Plains. They have also helped build 100 latrines in the evacuation centres and contributed to programmes which spread messages on the importance of good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.