Butterfly Trust provides Vanuatu update

Words: Butterfly Trust

Saturday 29 August 2020

PORT VILA, Vanuatu - Auckland City FC and the Butterfly Trust are pleased to bring you the latest update on the response to Tropical Cyclone Harold.

During the emergency relief phase of the response, West Coast Santo (WCS) remained the main focus of this work, while scoping activities were also carried out in north Malekula and Pentecost in preparation for longer-term recovery and resilience building.

"We are also integrating some Covid-19 preparedness work into the cyclone response, primarily in north and central Malekula," Butterfly Trust spokesman David Colbert told www.aucklandcityfc.com.

On 11 May the MV Sheerwater made another trip to WCS. This time she carried nine traditional weavers, skilled in weaving roofing thatch from coconut leaves.

Most of the weavers were from the island of Tanna where this skill is common, but is not used on WCS.

"The reason for sending out the weavers was that TC Harold had destroyed most of the natungura leaves which are usually used for thatch making on WCS, leaving however, a relative abundance of coconut leaves.

"As no emergency relief tarpaulins had made their way to WCS at this stage, despite the best efforts of the Butterfly Trust, it was important to start rebuilding local houses and community buildings," Colbert said.

The weavers carried out workshops on WCS for five days, and spent seven days there in total.

In addition to the weavers, MV Sheerwater also carried more shelter tool kits, nails, kitchen kits, soap, lighters, sanitary pads, blankets, buckets, and food. On behalf of other organisations, BT helped to facilitate further food and grocery items, solar lights, clothes shoes and linen.

Most of this cargo was transported by container from Port Vila to Luganville before being shipped to WCS.

Since the conclusion of the weaving workshop, villagers have been repairing and rebuilding with thatch.

With close to 100% damage to housing stock and communal infrastructure in the worst affected communities of WCS, rebuilding is set to be a long process. Several schools, health facilities and other community structures have all sustained major damage.

"We have now heard that local WCS leaders want to improve their communities’ resilience to natural disasters by reviving traditional, indigenous, kastom knowledge and skills.

Their focus is on food security, sustainable harvesting of local building materials, traditional building skills (with less reliance on imported materials), and the protection of flora and fauna," Colbert said.

The Butterfly Trust is currently engaged in discussions with local representatives to support their interest in rejuvenating the techniques of building indigenous ‘safe houses’, used in the past as evacuation centres during natural disasters.

This idea was behind the coconut thatch weaving initiative in the first place, and the Trust looks forward to continuing its support to WCS communities.

Over the weekend of 23 and 24 May, another 6 tonnes of rice (approximately 12kgs per household) was delivered to WCS as additional food rations.

On the return voyage, the vessel transported 17 school pupils (and five guardians) back to Luganville so they could resume school.

The Sheerwater also carried sacks of peanuts and kava for sale in Luganville, providing a kick-start to the cash economy on WCS.

In addition, Port Vila based social enterprise, Mama’s Laef, very generously donated 185 packs of washable sanitary pads towards the cyclone relief efforts.

These pads were gifted to women and girls from 6 villages in WCS.

To read more about the team that developed this eco-friendly alternative to disposable sanitary pads, go to https://www.mammaslaef.com/

The Butterfly Trust is planning to purchase more reusable sanitary products from Mama’s Laef as part of a Hygiene Project on Malekula.

From the last week of May to the middle of June, the Trust made several visits to Malekula.

"We carried out a scoping trip to Vao in northeast Malekula to assess its post-cyclone needs and to consult provincial health officers and community leaders regarding an upcoming Sanitation and Hygiene project integrating Cyclone Recovery and Covid-19 Awareness," Colbert added.

Also on Malekula, the Trust supported provincial health officers during a Covid-19 community awareness programme in Vao, Tontar and Brenwei.

"This activity consisted of community meetings at a number of villages to discuss the threat and nature of Covid-19, and to demonstrate hand-washing techniques and other strategies for personal health security.

"We also facilitated a similar workshop for School Improvement Officers and Inspectors, principals and teachers under the umbrella of the Malampa Health Promoting Schools (HPS) Programme," Colbert said.

The Trust helped to re-establish this programme in 2019 to strengthen the delivery of health education and reinforce healthy behaviour in schools and kindergartens.

With the threat of Covid-19 still out there, handwashing, personal hygiene and building proper toilets remain top health priorities.

The Butterfly Trust and the Health Promotion Unit donated jerry cans to 24 schools and kindergartens to encourage handwashing while the Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit provided toilet moulds to 6 schools.

The next HPS workshop is scheduled for 20 – 21 July, and will involve Oral Health Education and Nutrition.

Finally, some news from our ongoing community development work.

"Our partners from Ikkana Cancer Foundation successfully ran an exhausting 3-week tour of South Malekula, visiting Aulua, Blacksands, Lamap, Maskelynes, Hokai and Akhamb.

"In total the team screened 659 women, collecting 658 PAP smears and 238 HPV specimens for further testing.

"This activity started with extensive community awareness in July, August and December 2019, alongside the Trust’s integrated clinical and public health community outreach.

"While our focus for this year will still be on TC Harold Recovery work and Covid-19 Preparedness, some work around Health Education in schools, Oral Health Education and Women’s Health with Ikkana will carry on where possible.

"Our thanks go out to everyone involved and who supports our work," a spokesman added.

Butterfly Trust www.butterflytrust.org facebook.com/thebutterflytrust

https://givealittle.co.nz/org/butterflytrust

Special thanks to YachtAid Global and its Operation Nasama, Glen Craig and the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council and Deb Coleman.

Butterfly Trust  would also like to thank Chris Bartlett and West Coast Santo Sunset Environment Network who oversaw the distribution on the ground in WCS, Mama’s Laef, Caritas NZ (for shelter items), Richard Coleman, his crew and the Vanuatu Maritime College (MV Sheerwater and logistics), Reuben Fasher and the crew of Ratua, Vanuatu Skills Partnership and Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (transport), Shelter Cluster and Department of Public Works (nails), Vancorp (logistics), VCAN, Djorkaeff Avock, Chief Nakou, Pikinini Playtime, Friends of People with Special Needs, Law Partners, Geoffrey Gee & Partners, Vanuatu Surfing Association, Marmara Primary School (for hosting students), Food Security & Agriculture Cluster, Health Promotion Unit and Malampa Provincial Health, Malampa Health Promoting School Committee and Ikkana Cancer.

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