Solomon Islands

New Zealand Red Cross IT specialist in Solomon Islands

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New Zealand Red Cross aid worker Steve Davis was more surprised than anyone when a series of earthquakes struck off the Solomon Islands on Sunday.

As part of ongoing disaster relief and recovery, Christchurch man Steve Davis was deployed to the Solomon Islands last Friday to assess Red Cross progress after a spate of disasters in the area including earthquakes, a tsunami and tropical cyclones.

Mr Davis says he was taken by surprise during the shake up, but says the timing is good from an aid perspective.

"Without effective and reliable IT and telecommunications support, disaster response and ongoing recovery programmes are severely hampered," Mr Davis says.

Ongoing power and internet outages as well as IT system software and hardware failures within the country create significant difficulties for Red Cross to maintain ongoing contact with key partners, field staff and external contacts.

"Due to the remoteness of the islands it takes time to get reports in and assessment teams out, but at this stage since there appears to be little damage from the most recent earthquake. There may not be a big assessment requirement - but this is obviously subject to more contact being made and confirmation of reports," he says.

"One of the biggest issues here at the moment is the lack of reliable power, affecting efficiency and effectiveness."

Mr Davis, who is expected to stay in the Solomon Islands till early next week, has taken specialist equipment including four new laptops, satellite phones, portable VHF radio and, for the first time, GPS. While on mission, he also plans to set up a wireless internet network.

This is Mr Davis' third mission with New Zealand Red Cross as part of its Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T) Emergency Response Unit (ERU), a team of specialists that, when required, can be deployed to disaster zones within 48 hours.

His previous missions include Haiti, Tonga and Samoa.

New Zealand Red Cross, as part of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, currently supports 25 humanitarian aid workers deployed around the world working in fields such as health, water and sanitation and construction. New Zealand Red Cross' international aid worker programme is supported by NZAID, the government's international aid agency.