Reaching remote communties with relief after Typhoon Maysak

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By Karen Leiva, IFRC

Standing amongst the rubble that was once her house, 73-year-old Aichie Akitekit looks almost angelic in a long white cotton dress; her long hair neatly braided to the side. Her eyes are weary though; the lines in her face show the stress she has been under since Super Typhoon Maysak made landfall here in Micronesia. It’s not the first typhoon she has experienced, but this one, has been among the most devastating to have struck the Pacific island nation in her lifetime. She has lived in this community in Chuuk State from the time she was born, but now she has no home.

Earlier this week, the Micronesia Red Cross brought much-need relief supplies to Aichie and her neighbours. Among these items were blankets, which will provide a welcome comfort to families who have been sleeping on the floor of a church since the typhoon struck.

More than 30,000 people across Micronesia are believed to have been affected in some way by Typhoon Maysak. The damage caused by the storm typhoon has left an impact that will be felt for months to come. Thousands of homes were destroyed and crops that communities rely on for food have been completely flattened.

Since the disaster, Micronesia Red Cross volunteers have been active in responding to the disaster. Volunteers continue to assess the damage while also delivering relief items, including tarpaulins, water containers, lanterns, cooking sets and blankets. On April 8, the Red Cross distributed the last of its pre-positioned emergency supplies, more supplies are on now the way from the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The two states hit by the typhoon, Chuuk and Yap, are made up of many small, often remote, islands, many of which are difficult to reach. Even some communities on the main island of Chuuk have been hard to access because trees felled by the typhoon are blocking roads. The trees, yielding coconuts and breadfruit, have been completely uprooted, with many landing on cars and homes. To reach Aichie’s community, Micronesia Red Cross volunteers had to take a boat around the island and maneuver their way through dense mangroves.

There are 40 houses in Aichie’s community, 10 of which were completely destroyed, while others sustained varying levels of damage. When the typhoon hit, most members of the community evacuated to the local church – a sturdy structure with concrete walls -- where 10 families continue to be sheltered while they rebuild their homes. Others have been able to stay with relatives.

Since the typhoon hit, families here are trying to recover what is left and rebuild. When the Micronesia Red Cross arrived to distribute supplies, many people were washing clothing as their belongings were drenched in salty seawater. Fruit left strewn across the island by downed trees is being collected, but many are concerned that a food shortage is imminent because it will take months for the damaged trees to bear fruit again and for the next crops to grow.