The Samoa Red Cross Society’s mission post Cyclone Gita is simple.
Secretary General, Namulauulu Tautala Mauala, says they want to reach out to the most vulnerable families affected by the category 2 cyclone winds and flooding.
They are also focusing on health issues that can be compounded by lack of water and sanitation.
“We are doing house assessments which we started from Saturday and the damage assessments have been of people from these communities who have called on us,” she said, pointing to a map they are working from.
“So there’s more because the teams are still out there down at the flooded areas.”
The Red Cross response teams were dispatched to Savai’i yesterday around 4pm to assess the damage there.
“The other side of Savaii didn’t have any connections except for a few towards Salelologa. The south east side was hit the worst during the cyclone. We are going on the 4pm ferry today to Savai’i so we can see for ourselves how bad the damage is.
“We have another Red Cross centre in Tuasivi by the hospital but if we go out to the communities that are out further, we usually stay out with the village people to keep costs down.
“We mainly rely on volunteers from the villages to assist us because we don’t know where the most affected households are and we depend on them to show us.”
In the early stages of the assessments, Namulauulu specified that tarpaulin is the most needed item.
“For families who have lost their homes or their rooftops taken by the wind, tarpaulin is the first thing on the list. So this is why we are going to assess first, we don’t just give tarps to just anyone we need to make sure there’s a great need before these things are given.”
Focusing on health issues is the main priority as stagnant water as well as limited or no access to clean drinking water will accelerate health complications.
“We are focusing on the health issues especially with the dengue outbreak still in effect,” she said.
“It will be a lot worse now with all the water around. We’ll be meeting with the hospitals and health sector very soon to see how we can help one another in any likely outbreaks but that’s our focus now.
“We are concentrating on water and sanitation issues now because of poor water supply.
“When we met with the government team this morning, we put forward our request for hygiene kits so that when we do our assessments and provide relief supplies we give hygiene kits as well.”
“Right now, people need to focus on water and hygiene. And without power, you might have to boil water the old way – on the fire.
“We have asked W.H.O and M.O.H to provide us with aqua tabs to help so we can do some mixing with whatever water is there so that’s one means of doing it. We also have means of purifying water, any water – so that’s another option that we can assist in getting water supply. “
Despite the divesting impact on people’s homes and livelihoods, Namulauulu pointed out that compared to people’s responses after Cyclone Evan, they observed that this time round, the response has been more calculated.
“I think we are looking at the same communities that were devastated from Cyclone Evan, especially central Apia that got it back again but we have seen and even talked about it in our meeting that we are seeing some good things out of it in terms of people knowing what to do this time around,” she said.
“Even though some people were evacuated to the evacuation centres and we went to do the assessments on the first night we took tarpaulins and blankets but what happened was, we only gave out maybe 3 blankets in a shelter of almost 200 people so it means they didn’t need them because they came prepared.”
“Even during the day when there’s monitoring going on, the people kept going back to their homes and then coming back to the shelter overnight so people are becoming more aware.”