Solomon Islands

Rebuilding the Solomon Islands

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The Solomon Islands need both short- and long-term relief to rebuild schools, hospitals, clinics and other infrastructure in the wake of an April 2 earthquake-tsunami during which 52 persons were killed, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced.

An agency team recently reported the results of a two-week visit to assess the islands' future needs and will shortly draw up specific proposals in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local Japanese embassy after the Solomon Islands government prepares an overall reconstruction and relief plan.

The mission visited five badly hit islands, meeting with local, international and nongovernmental agencies and viewing the physical damage.

On the worst hit island of Gizo 33 of the 52 tsunami victims died, including 21 children. Most of the houses along the southern and western coasts were swept away, the hospital was damaged, employee housing was destroyed and nearly half of the hospital's 100 staff have still not returned to work. Temporary employees were sent from the capital, Honiara, to help.

In other areas, the mission found damaged or collapsed homes, classrooms and dock facilities, damaged water tanks, pipes, toilets and many communities without running waters.

There was a shortage of personnel in the key national disaster management office and equipment such as computers and copiers were destroyed, making recovery efforts even more difficult.

Mission member Masato Koinuma, who was a JOCV volunteer in Gizo 14 years ago, was struck by the extent of the carnage. "Western Province has a lot of small islands, where roads are few and the main means of communication and transport are boats and motor canoes," he said. "People were traumatized by the tsunami. They are afraid of the water and still reluctant to come down from the evacuation camps in the hills. My own impression is that the scars run deeper than the data on the damage suggests."

The mission concluded that in the short term, schools, clinics and wharfs must be quickly rebuilt and guidance provided to help prevent secondary disasters from landslides. Assistance should be provided to promote the construction of earthquake-resistant structures and building safety rules should be strengthened.

In the medium and long term, major hospitals must be rebuilt and information and communications networks, including broadcasting stations, strengthened at all levels, the mission said.