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Feeding our islands: Cancelled convention has silver lining for Mangaia

Tuesday 24 March 2020 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Outer Islands

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Feeding our islands: Cancelled convention has silver lining for Mangaia
Gill Vaiimene (middle) with friends at Mangaia airport last year. 20032315.

The unexpected arrival of a container-load of chicken, sausages and ice cream is like manna from heaven for Mangaia.

After two months of no cargo boat, only hundreds of cartons of chicken, ice cream, sausages, steak have been delivered to Mangaia.

A container has arrived chock-full of potatoes, onions, vermicelli, rice, mayonnaise and more, that was intended for the Cook Islands Christian Church youth convention next month – which has now been cancelled.

Much of the food has been sold to the community instead. Petrol and diesel were also offloaded on the island for lower prices than usual.

It was not a moment before time. Mangaia has root crops like taro, but no kumara or maniota. They have very little few vegetables at this time of the year.

President of the Elderbility Gill Vaiimene said: “Shelves in shops were very bare before the boat arrived; there are still shortages like no cream crackers, cabin bread, no Janola, Jif, Vicks ...

The arrival of the container was like manna from heaven – and with another boat expected this week, Vaiimene is optimistic. There will always be shortages, she acknowledges.

“But as long as Air Raro continue the freight run and there is a reasonable shipping service, and the people on Rarotonga don’t buy up everything, we will be okay.”

“I haven’t seen any panic-buying going on here.”

Vaiimene says: “There has been a lot of concern here, especially for those who see television and see what’s going on around the world, but as always misinformation helps feed fear; but certainly a lot more people now taking it seriously, which is good.”

“Our health and disaster management teams are doing a good job of informing and educating people.

“Health is admirable, getting the island prepared, helping people understand, putting plans and systems in place, training caregivers and the puna response teams.

“The elderly on the island are worried, especially those that live alone.”

The people are still struggling with practicing social distancing. “It’s not good at all,” she says. “Passengers who arrived last Thursday and Friday were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, some are, but some are not listening.”

Mangaia’s executive officer Anthony Whyte said the Disaster Risk Management team meets on Wednesday to give updates to the Mayor, council, Aronga mana and the community.

“Dr Dawn Ngatokorua presents information and gives advice on Mangaia TV; so there is a lot of information out there, we just want it to be consistent so everyone gets the right message, following the Health departments recommendations.

“Some people have not taken it well and seem to be in panic mode and are very suspicious of any new arrivals in the past week or so, which is to be expected, but other are less troubled.

“The postponement of the Air Rarotonga flights has to some been good, for others not so good; as long as it’s a good thing for the community to minimize our exposure to the virus.

Churches on the island now hold meetings in small groups at home to help with the social distancing.

“Other functions like sports and the convention have been postponed and now the island council elections.

“All our other public services are running as usual until we move to the Yellow or Red phase, we then have plans to follow and go down to the critical services situation.”