Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands: Tsunami and Earthquake - Appeal No. MDRSBOO1 Operations Update No. 3

Situation Report
Originally published


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In Brief

Operations Update no. 03; Period covered: 19 to 30 April 2007; Appeal target: CHF 1,691,977 (USD 1,405,645 or EUR 1,035,011); Appeal coverage: 58 %; Outstanding needs: CHF 709,890

Appeal history:

- Preliminary Emergency Appeal launched on 3 April 2007 for CHF 1,118,250 (USD 819,673 or EUR 615,385) for four months to assist 5,000 beneficiaries.

- Disaster Relief Emergency Funds (DREF) allocated: CHF 65,000.

- Revised Emergency Appeal launched on 18 April 2007 for CHF 1,691,977 (USD 1,405,645 or EUR 1,035,011).

- Operations Update 3 further revises the plan of action in light of high logistics/distribution costs as well as developments in health and water sanitation.

Operational Summary: Humanitarian aid arrived in sufficient quantities in the Solomon Islands to alleviate immediate needs. The challenge has been to move these supplies out to the communities from the two main supply centres of Honiara and Gizo. This has been the priority task for the logistics team in the field.

The Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) has now stepped back from taking the lead in distributing supplies, as the Solomon Islands government has taken over coordination activities, and responsibility for providing food assistance. SIRC has now taken responsibility for the distribution of nonfood items for the islands of Choiseul, Vella Lavella and Kolombangara. Initial estimates for this area of 1,000 families requiring assistance have now been increased to 1,500. The plan of action has been further revised because of the high distribution and logistics cost and other developments in health and water and sanitation areas.


On 2 April at about 07:40 hours local time, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale struck Western and Choiseul provinces of the Solomon Islands, just off the coast of Gizo, 350 km northwest of the capital Honiara, causing a localized tsunami. The combined effect of the quake and tsunami has resulted in significant damage and loss of life. According to the National Disaster Council (NDC), affected areas include Shortlands, Munda, Noro, Vella la Vella, Kolombangarra with the worst hit being Gizo, Simbo, the western coast of Ranogga and the central southern coast of Choiseul. The unconfirmed death toll remains at 52 with the number of displaced people remaining at 9,000.

Operational developments

Whilst preliminary information is now available, comprehensive data on the full extent of the disaster's damage from the national disaster management office (NDMO) is still unavailable. Data collection for the emergency was initially uncoordinated and varied in its accuracy and geographical coverage. Systems to collate available data were not in place or not effectively implemented for an extended period of time. To exacerbate the situation, the displaced population is extremely mobile and difficult to locate, as survivors are scattered across the forested hillsides of disaster-struck islands and still afraid to return to the coast. It is estimated that there are 350-400 small communities living in the affected area. A staff member from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) office in Suva is now working with the NDMO to process available raw data.

Emergency food supplies have been distributed, and there are no reports of any shortages at the moment, and none expected in the immediate future. The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report that there are no immediate medical emergencies. There is, however, some concern that if people remain congregated in semi-formal camps as they have in Gizo, problems linked with poor sanitation may arise. Conditions in these temporary camps are very poor. There are concerns that if people do not return to their original tsunami-affected living areas, the situation in the camps will deteriorate further.

Shelter has been identified by the NDMO as the urgent need now that the government has officially declared the emergency over. Emergency supplies have yet to reach some areas as they are difficult to access. Livelihoods, and in particular loss of cash income is an emerging issue. While most of the markets and shops in Gizo are now open with a range of goods for sale, few people have the means to purchase these items.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action - objectives, progress, impact

The emergency phase of the operation is drawing to a close and the recovery phase will soon begin. The last of the distributions is expected to finish by the second week of May, with disaster-hit families receiving 37,300 relief items as of 30 April. From the start of the operation, the Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) was quick to mobilize with a disaster management plan, trained personnel and pre-positioned stocks, providing assistance and relief to the affected. Emergency response team assessments were conducted, but were inappropriate for disasters of this scale. It was found that the assessments were too detailed and the teams required too much time to cover the affected area. There were also delays resulting from a backlog in collecting and processing data. A full appraisal will take place at a later date to evaluate the effectiveness of the system and fine tune/modify as necessary. As mentioned in previous updates, pre-positioned relief stock in Gizo and the capital, Honiara, was instrumental in ensuring communities received immediate assistance after the disaster. Additional relief items distributed were from private donations, purchased from Honiara or neighbouring Pacific countries, and delivered through the Federation secretariat's regional network.

Other Movement partners - the Federation secretariat and national societies from the region/working in the region - complimented the SIRCS's service delivery with financial, material and human resource support. In particular, technical expertise and human resources was needed to support the stretched capacity of SIRCS (refer to Capacity of the National Society section). Coordination among all partners of the Movement was excellent, considering the unique challenges of the operation (refer to the Federation Coordination and Support section). It was evident from the start that the national society needed international assistance to ensure the basic needs of survivors are met and a preliminary appeal was launched shortly after the disaster. This was later revised, taking into account the Red Cross Red Crescent's targeted support to three islands (Vella Lavella, Koolambangara and Choiseul; see Federation Coordination and Support for more information), focusing on shelter, water and sanitation, health and capacity building.

Further revisions to the plan of action

Since the inception of the revised appeal however, the plan of action has been modified to take into account realities and capacities on the ground. Operational and logistics costs are very high. Rented transport between islands has been unreliable and inconsistent, resulting in delays that have translated into higher expenditure and weakened service delivery. Distances between islands are great: for example, it takes three-and-a-half hours to move from Gizo to the nearest point on Choiseul by fast boat. Most of all, the Red Cross Red Crescent had to charter extremely expensive vessels for USD 2,500 to USD3,000 per day for a longer period than anticipated, simply because no other option was available. Not chartering these vessels would have ultimately led to unacceptable delays in relief delivery to beneficiaries (see Non-Food Items section for more information).

Therefore, the health and water and sanitation components have been adjusted to take into account these realities and the activities of other partners in the affected areas. In health, no serious emergencies have been reported and the operation has decided to refocus on the most pressing component of the recovery operation: shelter.

Additionally, health needs are already being overseen by the government (ministry of health) and other agencies (WHO and UNICEF). In the meantime, water and sanitation has been incorporated into the transitional shelter component and will no longer be a standalone project (refer to the Shelter section). The intervention will be limited to the provision of basic water facilities for community buildings in targeted areas. Modifications to the water and sanitation component also take into account French Red Cross-supported water and sanitation and shelter activities taking place on Choiseul. There have been some revisions to the capacity building component as well.

Overall objective: Targeted beneficiaries have the necessary immediate support to meet their basic needs of non-food items; and recovery support through the provision of shelter.

No. of families targeted for assistance: 1,500 families on Vella Lavella, Koolambangara and Choiseul.