27 Oct 2009

Governments confident aid getting to Samoa

9:59 am on 27 October 2009

Governments and the Red Cross are adamant tsunami aid is getting to where it is intended in Samoa.

It follows a claim by a New Zealand deputy mayor who recently visited devastated areas that not all aid is reaching those in need.

An 8.0 magnitude quake triggered devastating waves in the Pacific on 29 September, killing at least 184 people in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

Litea Ah Hoi, deputy mayor of Porirua, says she visited several villages badly affected by the tsunami, including Saleapaga and Poutasi, last week.

Ms Ah Hoi says she saw that some people are not getting Samoan government supplied aid on a regular basis.

"Had I not been there myself and seen it for myself and spoken to the people in those villages I probably would have thought that they were deemed to be untrue," she says.

Ms Ah Hoi says she raised her concerns with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and the Samoa Observer newspaper.

However, the Prime Minister says the claim is baseless and investigations have found nothing to back up claims that aid is either not getting to people, or is being sold off.

He has accused the media in Samoa of misleading people. "Our media will print any story that anybody comes up with and it is one of my contentions that our media should have come and analysed, followed up, the truth of the these allegations.

"I have been telling the newspapers that they have not been honest with their reporting. They should go to the source of the story and verify it from there."

But Ms Ah Hoi says her observation backs up the claim and there would be no reason for someone like herself to make up stories. She hopes the fact the issue has been raised will lead to people in need getting aid.

The New Zealand Government has pledged $7 million in aid and has been giving the bulk of it to agencies to distribute, including the Red Cross.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says there is no evidence that government aid is not reaching those who need it in Samoa.

However, the spokesperson says if specific information is brought to their attention about the misuse or misdirection of aid, the New Zealand Government would take that up with the Samoan government.

Families getting aid, says Red Cross

The New Zealand Red Cross says it can assure people its supplies of aid to Samoa are getting through to those who need it most.

Spokesperson Kelly Mitchell says the aid goes directly to affected families, not to village leaders to distribute.

"We have people on the ground who are able to assess the situation, see where the need is greatest to make sure that the aid and that support gets to those who need it most," she says.

The New Zealand-based Samoan Advisory Council says it is surprised by claims that aid is not reaching people.

A spokesperson for the council, Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereira, told Radio New Zealand it has not seen any evidence of this, nor has it heard anything to support Ms Ah Hoi's story.

"What we do know is that the Samoan community are still mobilising and are still rallying to provide substantive support to the affected villages of Samoa."