“Food shortage crisis in Lord Howe: Islanders brave rough seas to alleviate hunger”
Lawrence Makili, Chairman of the Lord Howe community in Honiara, points the finger at the Electoral Commission for the ongoing food shortage affecting Ontong Java, known as Malaita Outer Islands.
Islanders have undertaken perilous journeys covering about 467 kilometers to Honiara and even to Isabel Provincial township, Buala, seeking food supplies after climate change devastated their root crops.
The critical situation arises from a lack of ships servicing the islands over the past five months, leaving residents in dire need during the Christmas and New Year period.
According to Makili, if the ships chartered by the Electoral Commission for election registration purposes from September 4th to 29th, 2023, had allowed cargo transport, the current suffering could have been avoided.
Makili laments that the ships chartered by the Electoral Commission refused to carry cargoes for reasons unknown, directly impacting the availability of food supplies.
He asserts, “I blame the Electoral Commission for the food shortage.”
Adding to the crisis, Makili notes that franchised ships under the Ministry of Infrastructure Development have not been servicing Ontong Java and Sikaiana.
He emphasizes the need for franchises to adhere to their commitment, suggesting that regular monthly services to the Atolls are essential.
“As far as I am aware, the route for Sikaiana is serviced by MV Ortega, operating smoothly. However, the route for Ontong Java is serviced by MV Carolina and has been problematic,” alleges Makili.
“For almost five months, there has been no service. The Franchise failed to live up to its commitment, creating difficulties for the people of Ontong Java.”
Ernest Kolly, who confirmed the dire situation on Facebook, recounts witnessing boats from Lord Howe Islands risking their lives, using kerosene as fuel when they ran out, just to reach Honiara in search of food after Christmas.
“It is unimaginable, but that’s the risk they took to find food for their loved ones back on the islands. A sad reality for our wantoks on the atolls,” he added.
Comments are sought from Electoral Commission and Franchise ships to MOI.