Save The Children Staff Mobilise To Help Children Affected By Tropical Cyclone Harold
Save the Children staff in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are ready to help hundreds of children affected by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold, the most powerful storm in the Pacific in at least two years, with winds gusting as high as 235km/h.
Save the Children NZ Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee said, "Cyclone Harold comes at the worst possible time for these Pacific islands, as they prepare to manage their response to COVID-19."
Vanuatu is yet to confirm any cases of COVID-19. The Vanuatu government relaxed its state of emergency prior to the arrival of TC Harold, allowing people to travel to seek shelter, and to congregate in evacuation centres.
"The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has asked our staff in the Solomon Islands to do an assessment of what is most urgently needed. Many people have been moved to evacuation centres. Food, water, hygiene kits and dignity kits (women’s menstrual products etc.) will be required.
"The cyclone will likely have significant adverse impacts on children, both in terms of their physical and emotional wellbeing. We’ve had reports of unaccompanied children needing help. These children urgently need to be reunited with their families," Ms Coetzee said.
"We are trying to make contact with our staff on the northern islands of Vanuatu which have been hardest hit. Communication is down but it’s likely that many houses will have been destroyed, and there will be widespread flooding, power and water outages. It’s vital that we are able to get what is needed into these communities as soon as possible."
NDMO are developing protocols for the handling of incoming emergency relief supplies. Given the concerns around the potential importation of COVID-19, the NDMO have been clear that they do not want international personnel support at this stage.
Ms Coetzee said, "The cyclone is now headed for southern Fiji and Tonga so even more children and families will be affected. In Fiji people in coastal communities have been asked to move to higher ground as widespread flooding and storm surges are expected.
"Save the Children has a long history responding to emergencies in the Pacific, including Cyclone Pam in 2015 and Cyclone Winston in 2016. While we struggle with lockdown in New Zealand these Pacifica people have been doubly hit. If New Zealanders would like to help people affected by TC Harold please donate via the following link emergency.savethechildren.org.nz/cyclone-harold/."