As we survey the devastation and chaos caused by Cyclone Harold, a Category 5 cyclone that passed over or near the island nations of the Solomon's, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, it would appear at first glance, that the obstacles created by the near complete transportation and travel lock-down resulting from Covid-19 would prevent international aid organizations from bringing in the much-needed supplies. Having successfully responded to Vanuatu’s needs post Cyclone Pam 5 years ago, and with over 60 Sea Mercy disaster response vessels responding to Fiji’s Cyclone Winston in 2016, Sea Mercy has once again mobilized in response.
Working in Fiji, Sea Mercy Fiji’s President Nigel Skeggs has assembled a container full of water treatment and shelter supplies and loaded them onto a ship which is bound for Vanuatu now. “We are prepared and willing to respond to almost any natural disaster in the South Pacific. Thanks to lessons learned from Cyclones Pam and Winston, we have a warehouse in Fiji with portable desalination units, water filters, tents, and tools ready to go. These ‘standing stores’ mean we can respond immediately rather than waste precious time on complex logistics fetching supplies from other countries.“
Sea Mercy is already supporting the Fiji government with our in-country resources. However, Covid-19 has added a new and frustrating obstacle. “People are telling us this is too difficult. We refuse to accept their reality and we’re substituting one of our own. The fact the we have supplies stored in Fiji has already reduced Covid-19 obstacles significantly” said Nigel, whose team of volunteers in Fiji have worked diligently to mobilize Sea Mercy’s response.
Following and respecting the government quarantine protocols and regulations designed to protect their citizens, Sea Mercy’s first container load of desalination, water filtration and shelter aid is already bound for Vanuatu. Big thanks to Jonathan Robinson, Sea Mercy Fleet Director for his terrier like determination, and his ability to navigate through the bureaucracy which can sometimes be the difference between essential aid arriving or not.