The United Nations is rushing aid, including sanitation facilities, safe water and basic health care, to victims of a tsunami that hit the Solomon Islands yesterday, the second such massive wave to strike the region in three years.
Following reports that hundreds of houses were damaged and large areas completely inundated on Rendova Island (population 3,600) in Western Province of the South Pacific island nation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) dispatched a rapid response team by boat from nearby Gizo Island, where it was already working on reconstruction of schools affected by the deadly 2007 tsunami.
The agency will now use emergency supplies pre-positioned after that disaster, and is also preparing materials and staff to protect children, who are tremendously vulnerable during natural catastrophes, so that they can continue learning and studying and have safe recreation areas while their caretakers turn to rebuilding their lives.
In addition to the rapid response team already sent to Rendova and neighbouring Tetepare Island, two UNICEF emergency specialists are travelling today from Fiji to the Solomon Islands to provide additional support to relief efforts.
“Although it is still unclear how great the devastation has been this time, it is clear that the psychological trauma for children and adults experiencing two tsunamis in such a short period will be significant,” UNICEF Pacific Representative Isiye Ndombi said.
“Fortunately, UNICEF Pacific is already on the ground in the area and able to provide immediate support to the people of Rendova and Tetepare and other islands possibly affected. It will take several days however until we know the full extent and consequences of this tsunami because these islands are very remote and difficult to access.”
On Rendova the agency was already reconstructing 19 schools affected by the 2007 tsunami, which killed 54 people in Western Province, affected more than 37,000 others including 18,000 children, and heavily damaged thousands of homes, more than 200 schools, two hospitals and several health facilities.
UNICEF had already pre-positioned emergency supplies in the national capital, Honiara, to address water, hygiene, health, education, child protection and psycho-social recovery issues in emergencies. The agency is on track to complete reconstruction of 110 schools in the province by the end of 2010.