Saturday 20 February 2010 | Published in Regional
“Red Cross teams are making a real difference on the ground in Aitutaki,” says Patrick Arioka, a board member for the Cook Islands Red Cross, who has recently returned from the island.
Red Cross teams, including branch members, staff, youth educators and volunteers, are working alongside the residents of Aitutaki and others on the relief effort.
Distribution of tarpaulins, water, food and other essential supplies has been in progress since last weekend.
The Australian Red Cross has sent a water purifier to the island and this is helping with the water shortage.
“Our volunteers and partners have been amazing,” says Arioka.
“The Cook Islands community and the business sector have really pulled together to support the people of Aitutaki.”
Some of the many organisations who have contributed to the relief effort have included the government of the Cook Islands with the support of the UN, NZAID, the Australian Red Cross, the New Zealand Red Cross, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Community members, churches and businesses have made generous donations of money, food and water, along with other contributions in kind, and this has also made a big difference to the relief effort.
“One of the many rewarding aspects of our work over the past week has been helping a family who were not able to contact each other following the cyclone.”
The International Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links Programme enabled distressed family members who were overseas to talk to their family in Aitutaki soon after the cyclone.
However, Aitutaki remains an official disaster area and much remains to be done.
Authorities are continuing to work to restore power supplies and communications.
Many residents, including children, have been traumatised by the cyclone.
The Red Cross, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Internal Affairs and other relevant authorities, will be providing psychological support to some of those affected in the coming days and weeks.
As the Cook Islands is still in the cyclone season, Red Cross workers are also seeking to reduce the risk associated with any further cyclone.
Some teams are collecting loose materials, such as iron.
Another risk at this time is dengue and the Red Cross is working in partnership with the Ministry of Health to reduce the risk of an outbreak by distributing information leaflets to residents. It is also distributing mosquito nets to those most in need.
Aitutaki residents are starting to look further ahead. While some are struggling to balance their current employment obligations with the clean up effort, others have lost crops, animals and other income generating assets and will face many challenges as they seek to resume their usual livelihood activities in the coming weeks.
“The Cook Islands community, church and business support has been so inspiring.”
Arioka encourages anyone who would like to contribute money or goods to the Red Cross Aitutaki relief effort to contact the Cook Islands Red Cross (Rae Tupa phone 22598 or 26598).
- Red Cross