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Solomon Islands: Red Cross responds to Guadalcanal crisis

06-09-2000 News Release 00/34

In response to an upsurge in fighting between the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) and the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), an ICRC operation to help an estimated 5,100 internally displaced people is currently under way in the Solomon Islands. By 31 August, some 2,400 displaced people made homeless by the events in several parts of Guadalcanal province had received urgently needed non-food supplies including blankets, cooking utensils, clothing and shelter material.

As part of the relief effort, four ICRC delegates working together with staff and volunteers from the Solomon Islands Red Cross have assisted displaced populations both east and west of the capital Honiara and are now bringing aid to displaced persons in remote settlements along Guadalcanal's " Weather Coast " , notorious for its rough seas. Access to these areas became possible only when the ICRC managed to charter a suitable oceangoing vessel, the " Princess 2 " , which has for the past two weeks been transporting the Red Cross teams and relief supplies.

An ICRC surgeon and a Red Cross nurse are on hand to treat the sick and wounded in the hospital in Honiara and also in rural clinics, both in MEF- and IFM-controlled areas. Patients who cannot be treated in the clinics or who require major surgery are taken to the Honiara hospital. The demands of the conflict have caused a shortage of qualified medical personnel: apart from the ICRC surgeon, only two trainee doctors are available for surgery at the hospital. Moreover, the rural clinics have been cut off from their usual sources of medical supplies since the beginning of the conflict and now depend entirely on the ICRC for basic medicines.