By Becky Webb, IFRC
Weeks of heavy rain have deluged the Solomon Islands over the last month, affecting an estimated 10,000 people across the country. The rains, which began at the end of June, intensified in early July with the arrival of cyclone Raquel and the prolonged downpours have blocked many roads and access routes and also affected power and communications lines.
“At the moment we don’t have the full picture,” explains Cameron Vidu, Disaster Risk Manager at the Solomon Islands Red Cross. “The rains have hit remote communities hard but we’ve been unable to reach them while the weather has been so bad. Red Cross volunteers have travelled to some of the worst affected areas, to speak to families and assess the damage, but it’s going to take days to travel around all the islands,” he continued.
With limited access and communications, the Solomon Islands Red Cross has taken to the airwaves to reach out to people in remote communities through radio broadcasts to reassure them that assessment teams are on their way.
“One of the key things we learnt from speaking to communities after cyclone Pam and the 2014 floods, was that in an emergency people are waiting for information and they want to be notified of Red Cross activities in advance”, said Kennedy Waitara, Dissemination Officer at Solomon Islands Red Cross.
To improve communications with people affected by the recent heavy rains, the Red Cross is broadcasting daily radio spots on the country’s national radio station; Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.
“The radio messages are to let people know where the assessment teams are travelling to and what they will be doing when they arrive. It’s important people understand that we are there to assess the damage and to identify who has been worst affected, so we can target our support to those who are most vulnerable,” explains Kennedy.
Over the coming days Red Cross volunteers will visit communities in Choiseul, Isobel and Western Province, to gather information on the damage caused and to plan their response. The Red Cross is also warning families of the need to stay safe and healthy by broadcasting a second daily radio spot, focusing on how to prevent illnesses such as diarrhea.
“We are using radio because people in Solomon Islands always listen to the radio. Your radio is a vital lifeline to receive information and updates,” said Kennedy.