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Medical centre arrives on Tanna

Saturday 10 October 2015 | Published in Regional


Lenakel – A medical centre one step closer to helping the people of Tanna, after two containers full of donated goods arrived on the remote Vanuatu island from New Zealand this week.

An appeal was launched by the Marlborough District Council, wine industry staff and Crossroads Marlborough after Cyclone Pam in March this year.

That saw $40,000 worth of goods loaded one large shipping container and shipped to Port Vila.

Jono Bushell of Marlborough contracting company Vinepower, said the container landed in Port Vila in July, but could not be delivered to the island until this month.

“There’s no wharf on Tanna, and nothing resembling a forklift. We transferred all the goods into two smaller containers, so they could be shipped.

“Then we had to wait four weeks to get them delivered, because of the backlog of freight on the wharf, due to aid shipments to the island.”

Bushell contracts workers from Tanna Island for work in Marlborough, and is also a co-owner of Tanna-based coconut oil company Tanna Farms.

He lives six months of each year in Vanuatu, and was there during and after Cyclone Pam, seeing first-hand the devastation it brought.

He said when the ship eventually arrived at Tanna’s capital, Lenakel, he and his staff carted much of the cargo to shore by hand, including roofing iron, bags of cement and timber, to reduce the weight.

Australian Justin Leary put jockey wheels under the containers to tow them off, despite one container being the wrong size and the other one bent out of shape, said Bushell.

“There’s no shop here to buy what you need, so we pulled out donated stuff, like a sledge hammer, bearings and chain, and made it work.”

The containers and their cargo were trucked to a site 15 kilometres from Lenakel, where they will become the core of a new medical centre, allowing people on the western side of Tanna Island access to health care nearby, instead of walking up to a day to get to the hospital in Lenakel.

Bushell said many of the materials donated would be used to build the medical centre, which would benefit the island at large.

The remaining goods would be distributed among communities. An ultrasound in the donated goods has been given to a hospital in Port Vila.

The Marlborough Medical Centre will be set up by missionary Philippe Pinero of CSL Vanuatu.

“He has a good understanding of the needs of people on the island,” said Bushell.

Appeal co-ordinator Lindsay Parkinson said considerable funds had been used to freight the building supplies and container to Tanna.

“But now that the medical centre idea is taking shape I feel like we are close to achieving something tangible, valuable and, best of all, a worthwhile community facility that is able to be used by a large amount of people.”