Extreme weather is adversely impacting Pacific communities even as they work to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, Cyclone Harold passed through Vanuatu as a Category 5 storm, directly hitting several islands and causing significant damage to communication, water and power lines, as well as crops, shops and homes. In the Solomon Islands, a ferry carrying passengers from Honiara to Malaita encountered severe weather due to the cyclone. 27 people were swept overboard, and many remain missing. Massive flooding has damaged shelter and water supplies throughout the country.
Although it has weakened slightly, Cyclone Harold has now reached Fiji and Tonga, bringing gale force winds, flooding, heavy rains and large waves. Evacuation and response efforts are complicated by the social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic Bishops’ agency for justice, peace and development, is working with their partners on the ground in Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga to address the impact of Cyclone Harold, especially in the face of the global pandemic. Caritas is supporting impacted areas through solidarity funding and assistance in the management and replenishment of pre-positioned emergency supplies.
Local efforts remain at the forefront of emergency response, and Caritas is committed to working with communities to respond to their immediate and long-term needs.