The Australian government has stepped up to help its Pacific neighbours recover from Cyclone Harold’s trail of destruction.
The tropical cyclone first made contact with the Solomon Islands in early April at a Category 1 rating, before moving across to Vanuatu and spiralling to a Category 5. After making its way across Fiji and Tonga, the storm finally eased — leaving 30 dead and hundreds of thousands without shelter, food and necessities.
In the days after Cyclone Harold hit, Australia vowed to stand with its region and help in “whatever ways we can.”
Now, almost exactly a month following the devastating natural disaster, Australia has kept its promise, delivering emergency funding and working with Australian and Pacific organisations to distribute humanitarian relief supplies like blankets, tents and hygiene kits.
Below, we have laid out how Australia is helping the four hardest-hit Pacific nations.
🇦🇺-funded hygiene and kitchen kits on their way to assist people in 🇸🇧 affected by #CycloneHarold. The National Disaster Management Office will get the supplies to those in greatest need. As ever, @OxfamSolomon and @CAREAustralia are great partners on the ground. pic.twitter.com/4t3I1U6xLt— Lachie Strahan (@AusHCSols) April 22, 2020
Cyclone Harold first hit the Solomon Islands on April 2 as a Category 1 cyclone.
The nation’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) reported the loss of 27 lives and extensive damage to buildings, homes and roads throughout the capital of Honiara and various eastern islands. The NDMO put out a call for immediate food, shelter, health, water and sanitation assistance for 150,000 people — and Australia responded with over $90,000 AUD in emergency funding.
Anglican Overseas Aid, an Australian aid-funded development agency, is specifically working to lead teams to reach remote communities and undertake impact assessments to ensure help is reaching every affected individual.
NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite flew over Cyclone Harold on April 6th, 2020 shortly before it made landfall in #Vanuatu, capturing this 3D data on rainfall within the storm.— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) April 10, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/l0w3ooParhpic.twitter.com/n7VnzLXeFg
The full-scale devastation caused by Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu is only just coming to light.
Local reports show over 18,000 homes have been badly damaged or destroyed — leaving 87,000 people in need of temporary shelter. The nation does not have the capacity to shelter this many individuals, according to the Vanuatu Health Emergency Operations Centre, which also explained cases of dengue, malaria and diarrhea are already on the rise.
Australia is currently providing relief supplies, like blankets and hygiene kits, as well as aiding local health, education and policing response operations. Australia is also assisting non-government organisations like the Red Cross and UNICEF in their efforts to deliver items like emergency shelters and water containers.
After undertaking aerial surveillance, the Royal Australian Air Force has been deployed to help deliver emergency supplies.
Through the Australian aid program SPRINT, the nation is also assisting local organisations in providing gender-based violence support and sexual health services to thousands in the hard-hit Penama and Sanma provinces.
A big thanks to all of those involved in this afternoon’s flight. The fourth to bring in equipment for the response to #TCHarold and #COVID19. 220 tonnes all up @Rfmf_Media@FijiNDMO@AusAirForcepic.twitter.com/6mUFUd1AAK— John Feakes (@AusHCFJ) May 1, 2020
With over 180,000 Fijians affected, the government was quick to call on the international community for assistance.
In response, Australia supported the government to initially undertake damage surveillance and provide supplies like kitchen utensils, tents and personal hygiene items. The Australian government has also supplied funding for the Fiji Red Cross, which will help the organisation rebuild crucial water infrastructure and offer counselling to affected individuals.
The Royal Australian Air Force has likewise made various trips to drop off additional necessary supplies.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said Australia and Fiji would always assist each other in trying times.
"Just as Fijian personnel supported Australian communities during our recent bushfires, Australia stands with Fiji as family … in its time of need,” she said in a press release. “Australia will directly support the Government of Fiji to mobilise initial response efforts and prioritise the rehabilitation of core services such as schools and health clinics.”
RT AusHumanitarian: RT OfficePacificAU: Australia’s NGO partners in the #Pacific are restructuring their programs in response to the #COVID19 pandemic & #CycloneHarold. In 🇹🇴, 🇦🇺 is supporting the Tonga Red Cross, Caritas Tonga & MORDI Tonga Trust to dis… pic.twitter.com/Q290QfdQDG— Jo Reid (@JoElizabethReid) April 28, 2020
An immediate assistance package of $100,000 was provided to Tonga following reports of damage to vital infrastructure and agriculture.
The Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, Adrian Morrison, said Australia would specifically work to support the Tonga Red Cross, Caritas Tonga and the MORDI Tonga Trust to ensure essential supplies and services reach all who have been impacted.
"We welcome their ongoing work to provide much-needed emergency hygiene kits, water, shelter and other essential items for those impacted,” Morrison announced in a media release.