Sea Mercy has a proud history with the South Pacific and their international operations are based in Fiji. Advanced planning coupled with careful partnerships enabled them to respond with aid almost immediately following TC Winston in February and then again this week after TC Zena.
John Ivey, Sea Mercy Disaster Response Coordinator, credits their short response time to the experience Sea Mercy gained in two previous disaster relief efforts. “During our disaster response experiences in Tonga and Vanuatu in 2014 and 2015, we learned that the first few days following a natural disaster were the most critical. We decided a proactive approach would be required and had set up local and international aid partnerships headquartered in Port Denarau, Fiji well in advance of TC Winston. Our local partnerships allowed us to have food, water, shelter and medical aid on-hand and heading to the remote communities within days. Aid airlifted in from our international partnerships enabled us to continually resupply our First Response vessels for the next two weeks until the International Aid Organizations could fully engage their resources.”
For the first week of operations, Nigel Skeggs, President of Sea Mercy Fiji, based himself in the NDMO command office while David Jamieson from Yacht Help oversaw the huge number of volunteers on the ground in Port Denarau Marina which was the hub for Sea Mercy aid. Sea Mercy, in conjunction with the NZ High Commission, helped coordinate the importation of 8.5 tons of ShelterBox and Byond supplies within a few days of TC Winston. This aid, combined with the huge amount of donated food and critical first response items from our warehouse, was distributed by our fleet of eight volunteer vessels. “The expertise and commitment of the Sea Mercy boat owners were instrumental in getting our teams onto the outlying islands quickly in order to help families that had literally lost everything.” said Bruce Heller of ShelterBox.
To date, Sea Mercy has distributed over $500,000 in aid including food, clothing, medical supplies, tents, ShelterBoxes, trap, ropes, buckets, lights, water filters and eight solar-powered desalinization units. This means that Sea Mercy in conjunction with our partners, ShelterBox and Byond, have helped house an estimated 700 people in these remote islands.
In addition to distributing supplies, our volunteers have also assisted with repairs to buildings, water tanks and water collection systems. Our nurses have treated the wounded, restocked island medical kits and trained and educated people on health issues during this difficult period. Our vessels have made and delivered over 30 tons of fresh drinking water in the last two weeks and, excitingly enough, are also slated to install solar-powered desalinization plants in several villages to make fresh water.
To achieve the above, we have not been alone and this could not have happened without the great support of the yachting tourists in Fiji who have donated their vessels and time as well as two local commercial operators - Nai’a Dive Adventures and Captain Cook Cruises.
Sea Mercy was tasked by the Fijian government with the Disaster Response and Recovery of several remote islands in the Lau Group. These islands include: Viwa, Vanua Balavu, Southern Taveuni, Namena, Makogai, Batiki, Nairai and Moturiki. In addition, they will be responsible for supplying the villages in the Ra District which are only accessible by water: Veidrala, Nasau, Nayavuira Villages.
We are now preparing to shift from the “emergency response” phase to the long and often difficult “disaster recovery” phase for Fiji’s devastated remote island communities. With additional vessels scheduled to join our fleet over the next few months, we are preparing to provide support for the NDMO and the people of Fiji for as long as it takes to help return them to healthy, thriving communities they once were. Our Sea Bridge for Recovery program will last for the next 6-12 months and will focus on the four pillars of disaster recovery: water, food, shelter and medical. We are also looking for “recovery” partners willing to join us during this next phase so please contact us at email@example.com if you are able to help us with our recovery efforts in Fiji.