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Gwalese Start Internal Refugee Camp In The West

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By Duran Angiki USP Journalism Graduate

GIZO, Solomon Is: Displaced ethnic Guadalcanal people who fled the war-torn national capital of the Solomons, Honiara, are now building an internal refugee camp in the Western Solomons.

Western Solomons shares a maritime border with the neighboring Melanesian country of Papua New Guinea and is about one and half-hours on domestic flight from Honiara.

The refugee camp is built at the out sketch of the coastal village of Dunde in Munda on New Georgia Island, Western Solomons.

Since the establishment of the camp in July, about ten families with about 40 displaced people had settled in the more than 100 square meters piece of land.

The land has been voluntary given by a principal landowner of Dunde and since the refugees settled the area, they had built three thatched houses and pitched two plastic tents.

A mother of five children, Patricia Fafale, 54, admitted that they were facing a lot of hardships in their effort to rebuild their lives in a "foreign" land.

She said the biggest challenge for them now was restarting their lives with virtually nothing in the first ever refugee camp in the Solomons.

Amongst the refugees were three mothers with about eight children who were still not aware of the whereabouts of their husband since they parted in a hurry on July.

She revealed that they relied heavily on the community of Dunde village for water and food for survival.

The refugees confirmed that the Solomon Islands Red Cross had initially supplied them with three plastic tents but since then they were still waiting for help.

Attempts to get the SIRC for comment were unsuccessful yesterday.

Mrs Fafale, one of the principal landowners of Choviri village at the Matanikau area in the outback of Honiara City, emotionally related how the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) militia forced them to flee.

She said armed MEF militia went to her village and torched all the houses and stripped down to the ground her family properties, including three permanent houses and a church building.

At a nearby village opposite Choviri village, ethnic Malaitan militia also captured an elderly Guadalcanal man in front of his teenage children and

wife and beheaded him.

The MEF also carried out similar barbaric killings of two teenagers plus the daily torturing of youths from various villages surrounding Honiara forced many to flee leaving behind mostly women and children.

Mrs Fafale said it was then that the Solomon Islands Red Cross came to their rescue and assisted them to flee Honiara through the Western Solomons ferry, MV Tomoko.

On their arrival in the Western Solomons, more than half of the people who escaped on the same voyage out of Honiara decided to follow some of their friends.

Mrs Fafale said the only thing that cushioned the many difficulties they

were facing now was the generosity of the people of Dunde village.

The whole community of Dunde, with a population of about 1000, had separated into six groups that supply the refugees with local food supply on daily basis.

A Gualdalcanal leader and Member of Parliament for East Central Guadalcanal, who also fled and now settled in Munda, Walton Naezon expressed sadness about the situation.

But he expressed gratitude to the whole community of Munda and the rest of the Western Solomons for the sympathy and help they gave to the refugees.

Mr Naezon said the biggest challenge for him as a leader, was to get appropriate authorities to seriously look into the flight of Guadalcanal

people now taking refugee in the Western Solomons.

He said unfortunately, the current government had been taking priorities in meeting the compensation demands of the MEF militia, which was now reached SBD$200 million.

Western Solomons authorities yesterday confirmed receiving unofficial reports of the camp but admitted that the Red Cross has not informed them about the existence of the Guadalcanal refugees.

Officials said the new camp was a sad reality of what displaced Guadalcanal people had now faced and the Solomon Islands Red Cross should be held full responsible for the people.

The officials said the Western Solomons has expected the Solomon Islands Red Cross to take the leading role in assisting and providing the refugees with their immediate need.

At present, the refugees had started gardening around the camp but it would take months for the garden to provide the much need food supply of the families.

Since the flaring of the ethnic tension in June between the warring militia of Guadalcanal, the Isatabu Freedom Movement and MEF of Malaita Province, more than 1000 Guadalcanal people had fled Honiara and have now settled in various parts of Western Solomons.

Ends

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