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Samoan tsunami brings back memories for aid worker

Samoan tsunami brings back memories for aid worker

Arriving in Samoa was like a Déjà vu experience for Onehunga resident Ian McInnes, who was involved in relief operations following the Asian Tsunami. “Seeing the devastation and hearing the stories of loss and miraculous escapes brought it all back to me,” he said.

Mr McInnes is a TEAR Fund programmes officer and he has just returned from Samoa assessing the organisation’s relief efforts. TEAR Fund has been pledged more than $130,000 and is moving into the recovery phase of its operations, rebuilding homes destroyed by the disaster, providing ongoing healthcare through a mobile health clinic and helping children to get back to school.

“It is essential to get life back to as close to normal as possible as quickly as possible for the victims of this disaster, and to that end we are working closely with the Samoan Ministry of Education to get children back to school,” said Mr McInnes. Four schools were destroyed as a result of the disaster which has meant having to shift affected students to existing schools. This required significant extra resourcing to cope with the increased numbers of students, he said

“The children have been traumatised by recent events and the routine of returning to school will help them not to dwell so intensely on their grief and give professionals the opportunity to give them much needed counselling. TEAR Fund will be providing school resources to aid this move back to school.”

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TEAR Fund is also working to rebuild several homes in an affected village. “For now most of the families who lost their homes have pretty good temporary shelter and they should be okay until the homes are completed.”

A mobile clinic would be available to meet health needs of villagers as many people don’t get the medical attention they need because they have to travel to Apia, he said. The unit would help with non urgent cases. Until adequate water and sanitation systems were readily available there would likely be ongoing problems of sickness amongst the suffering communities and having medical attention nearby would be essential, he said

To donate to phone 0800 80 777 or visit www.tearfund.org.nz

ENDS

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