Cook Islands Red Cross disaster management coordinator Mata Hetland recently visited the northern group islands of Penrhyn, Rakahanga, Manihiki and Pukapuka on a joint chartered flight with Cook Islands National Super Fund and Bank of the Cook Islands. Hetland was accompanied by northern group Red Cross representative Sharon Maoate.
Due to the shortage of time on each of the islands, the pair was only able to carry out First Aid training sessions for the northern group communities including some schools, as there wasn’t enough time on each island to conduct the full climate change workshops they had intended to do.
Despite this, Hetland says it was a worthwhile trip to the north.
“It was a much-needed visit, especially to Penrhyn and Pukapuka, as there are no regular flights,” says Hetland.
Red Cross was also able to conduct stocktakes of all relief items in each of the Red Cross branches’ storage.
“As more climate reports predict increased cyclone activities, the need for sufficient prepositioned stock is also urgent especially in our far northern group islands,” says Hetland.
She says disaster risk reduction areas were also looked into through discussions with the branches.
While risk reduction activities have been carried out on the various islands by various agencies, the fact remains that these islands are low lying coral atolls that can be easily overwhelmed by rising sea surge, Hetland says.
She adds that the life jackets and other devices that Cook Islands Red Cross and other agencies have provided for the northern group island communities may give people an 80 to 90 per cent chance of survival should they be swept out to sea, as some Manihiki residents were during the Cyclone Martin disaster.
Most of Cook Islands Red Cross disaster management activities are focused on the outer islands as they are more vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters than Rarotonga.
The pair also managed to meet with all the branches, encouraging them to remain as strong pillars in the community and maintaining a good working relationship with their respective island councils, island administration and island leaders guided by the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross movement.
Hetland and Maoate acknowledge the warm generosity of the people in the northern group during their visit.
- Mana Media