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Welfare needs for Aitutaki being considered

Thursday 25 February 2010 | Published in Regional

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Extra welfare assistance for Aitutaki households following Cyclone Pat will be included in government’s yet-to-be-announced reconstruction and recovery programme, says internal affairs secretary Bredina Drollet.

Drollet spent last Thursday in Aitutaki as part of health and internal affairs minister Apii Piho’s delegation visiting the island to assess health and welfare needs.

She says her ministry has not been able to provide any immediate extra assistance for people who have found themselves destitute overnight because this has to be assessed further and will likely form part of the government package for reconstruction and recovery.

Some form of welfare benefit and food assistance is being considered but the package may not be announced until next week.

There are almost 800 welfare benefit recipients in Aitutaki – 500 of them are children, another 200 are on the old age pension and the remainder are mostly the infirm.

Drollet says there is an internal affairs office and officer in Aitutaki but that person has had to be given leave to deal with the effects of losing their own home in the cyclone.

She says this made her visit to the island even more important to make sure an assessment of social welfare needs got underway.

Drollet says internal affairs has been working closely with Red Cross who has carried out the initial damage assessments of households.

Welfare officer Mii Daniels who went with the delegation has a background in counselling and remained on the island to work with Red Cross to assist the Aitutaki people.

Yesterday two internal affairs staff were sent to Aitutaki to continue working on the overall assessment.

Drollet said director of social welfare John Henry was tasked with following the infrastructure team doing an in-depth assessment of the damage to homes this week to also capture what the social needs of each household are.

Senior disability officer Nooroa Numanga was also sent to accompany the United Nations Development Programme’s disaster risk management advisor Moortaza Jiwanji and emergency management’s Charles Carlson on a two to three day assessment of households and their welfare needs.

Drollet says this assessment will focus more on the results of interviews with the people either in their homes, or in focus groups.

“The aim of all this is to give government better information to make decisions on where assistance will go. We need more information before the government agencies can go to cabinet and recommend the best ways of targeting assistance.”

Drollet says internal affairs is contributing to recommendations from key ministries on forms of assistance likely to be in the reconstruction and recovery package.

Housing will be the priority form of assistance but economic recovery, livelihoods, and community and environmental needs are being considered. Drollet says the package will focus on longer term recovery too, but for now they are aware that they need to consider ways to provide extra assistance to those who have become homeless.