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Solomon Islands: Difficult relief operation under way

06-10-2000 News Release 00/38

Last week, ICRC staff based in Honiara went to the aid of some 300 people on the remote island of Sikaiana, in the most inaccessible part of the Solomon Islands, where they distributed seed, gardening tools, fishing gear, food and medicines. The inhabitants have no regular outside supplies for most of the year and have seen their island's population grow dramatically with the arrival of displaced people fleeing the fighting on Guadalcanal. These items will enable the Sikaianans to plant additional gardens and do more fishing.

There is no regular transport service between Sikaiana and the other islands. The delegates reached it aboard the ICRC vessel " Princess 2 " after a 24-hour trip though heavy seas. The team included a doctor, who treated 25 patients – a significant percentage of the population – and was later told that he was the first doctor to go there in many years. A woman suffering complications as her pregnancy reached its term was taken to Honiara hospital on the vessel's return voyage. Labour started as the ship approached Honiara harbour and a baby girl, named Princess, was delivered shortly afterwards.

Despite the extreme difficulty of landing on the beaches in high swells, the delegates, working with staff and volunteers from the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society, have been able to carry on relief operations in the Marau Sounds and along the " Weather Coast " of Guadalcanal, where 3,000 displaced people have been registered. On several occasions, distributions had to be temporarily halted after the ICRC's landing craft was swamped by waves and conditions were judged too dangerous to continue.