7 Oct 2009

Much-needed relief from new aid base in Samoa

12:30 pm on 7 October 2009

Locals in the Poutasi area on the south coast of Samoa are to get some much-needed relief from a new aid and medical base just set up in the area.

The medical centre in the village, in the Falealili district in the Poutasi aread, was flattened by last week's tsunami.

Leilani Momoisea is in Samoa.

"The new medical base camp has just been established in Poutasi village, an area where some aid has so far not been reaching people. The senior medic with the New Zealand, Staff Sergeant Craig Love says they now need to put the word out to those camped in the mountains, that it's safe to come down and medical aid is available. He says a lot of the people who are returning from the hills have lacerations, bruising and infections from being tossed around in the coral reef. Staff Sergeant Love says people will also need to be treated for ailments such as scabies and the flu, which he believes is now starting to move through the region."

Meanwhile, Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says there will be support for those people who want to rebuild their homes away from the coast.

The ministry's chief executive, Taulealeausumai Laavasa Malua says those who've lost their homes aren't interested in rebuilding along the coast at the moment, but it will be a challenge to convince them in the longer term to settle inland.

We've always been working with the villagers, telling them they are in a risk area, and when they rebuild they should probably think about rebuilding permanently inland. But people's linkages to their land and also their heritage, is not easy to be just abandoned like that.

Taulealeausumai Laavasa Malua says inland areas already have power, water and some roads, and the government will look for help to develop that infrastructure in the future.

And aid workers say supplying food and water to people displaced by the tsunami is proving difficult.

The United Nations Disaster Assessment team is working with non-governmental organisations to analyse the needs of Samoan communities.

Dave Neru from Oxfam says people from the south-eastern part of the disaster zone that have left coastal areas for higher ground have scattered.

Because they've set up within their family lands and plantations, individual families have fights and they've scattered a fair distance apart. So instead of dealing with clusters of families, we're dealing with individual families.

Dave Neru says distributing aid to individual family units is logistically challenging and communal water stations will need to be established.