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Solomons: Terrorised refugees get new shelter

Solomons: Terrorised refugees get new shelter says NZ aid worker

Aid agencies will assist refugees who fled a reign of terror imposed by Harold Keke's Guadalcanal Liberation Army to relocate, after it proved impossible to provide them with adequate water supplies.

For two months about 600 refugees have lived under plastic sheeting at Titinge, outside Honiara, after fleeing the remote Weathercoast.

World Vision New Zealand aid worker Paul Martell, speaking from Honiara, said refugees were suffering dismal conditions made worse by high temperatures and humidity.

Besides a shortage of water, refugees lacked proper sanitation and there were no school facilities for children. Mosquitoes were a problem and several children had contracted malaria.

Mr Martell said in the next eight to ten days refugees would move about 5 kilometres to West Titinge. World Vision has provided materials for a temporary school at the new site and will install a water and sanitation system for all refugees as part of a multi-agency assistance package.

Mr Martell said refugees appeared remarkably positive despite their current wretched conditions and being forced to witness the abduction, rape and beating of relatives and former neighbours by Keke supporters.

"They're looking to the future rather than looking back in bitterness," he said.

But he added refugee children were traumatised and the agency was investigating the possibility of recruiting a psycho-therapist, preferably one who could speak pidgin.

"There's a lot of listlessness. A lot of these children have seen relatives killed. Psychological problems will be a big issue," he said.

Mr Martell said all the local people he had spoken to greatly appreciated the arrival of New Zealand troops and police to restore order to the troubled islands and there was a noticeable easing of tensions on the streets of Honiara. Armed thugs had gone underground.

But he said locals warned him a gun amnesty had so far netted only home-made and WWII vintage weapons. More sophisticated, high-powered guns remained in dangerous hands.

Paul Martell is on a training and assessment mission to the Solomons. He returns to New Zealand on 23 August when he will resume duties as World Vision's Wellington district manager and government relations manager.

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