UN continues aiding tsunami-hit Solomon Islands, but some areas still out of reach

12 April 2007 – Relief efforts in the Solomon Islands following last week’s deadly tsunami are being hampered by the lack of access to the more remote regions, the United Nations humanitarian arm warned today, with some areas still not yet reached by emergency teams, ten days after the disaster struck.

But the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said radio contact has been largely re-established to affected areas and the threat posed by communicable diseases has been brought under control, with few reported cases of diarrhoea and surveillance systems in place to handle any outbreak of malaria.

Providing shelter and helping the thousands of newly displaced persons to return to their home areas remain the biggest challenges, OCHA said in a press release issued in New York.

The Solomon Islands estimate that at least 35 people died and more than 9,000 others were affected by the tsunami, with some 1,500 people needing urgent assistance. Many people are camping on hillsides, afraid to return to their coastal homes because of frequent tremors since the original quake.

The tsunami struck the Solomon Islands – and parts of neighbouring Papua New Guinea – on 2 April after an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale which struck 345 kilometres northwest of Honiara, the capital of the South Pacific nation.

One of the hardest-hit towns is Gizo, where tanks and water pipes need urgent repair after suffering damage. The quake and subsequent landslides have also damaged many water sources. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sent tens of thousands of packets of oral rehydration salts, while several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also operating in Gizo or surrounding areas.

UNICEF, the World Health Organization (a href="http://www.who.int/countries/slb/en">WHO) and the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health have planned a measles vaccination campaign for Monday, and repairs are continuing at the Gizo hospital.

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