By EDDIE OSIFELO
In a bid to address ongoing concerns of a food shortage crisis in the Malaita Outer Islands, MV Carolina is set to embark on a final journey to Ontong Java later this month.
The move is part of the Franchise shipping scheme arrangement with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.
Isikeli Tuwaii Vave, owner of Henderson Logistics Limited, the company that owns MV Carolina, expressed his sympathy for the residents of the islands who have been grappling with food shortages.
Vave revealed that the decision to withdraw services to Ontong Java was prompted by outstanding payments from some residents and the insufficient government subsidy of $130,000, which falls short of covering fuel costs.
Vave explained that for the company to remain profitable, it has prioritized serving economical routes in the Western Province and collaborating with the Soltuna company.
He lamented the economic challenges faced by the people of Ontong Java, attributing them to the government’s ban on bech de mers, which had previously made the route economical during harvest periods.
The residents of Ontong Java have been compelled to undertake arduous journeys, covering approximately 467 kilometers to Honiara and even to Isabel Provincial township, Buala, in search of food supplies.
The impact of climate change on their root crops has worsened the critical situation.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Alenge Katoravu of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) stated that the lack of ships servicing the islands over the past five months has left residents in dire need, particularly during the Christmas and New Year period.
Katoravu emphasized that the food shortage in Malaita Outer Islands is a longstanding issue aggravated by climate change affecting swamp taro and gardens.
The islands’ vulnerability to saltwater intrusion during high tides has further hindered their ability to replant.
Katoravu clarified that he became aware of the issue through a report in the Island Sun newspaper and highlighted the absence of a formal report from the Malaita Provincial government addressing the situation.
He noted that the food shortage was compounded by the irregular shipping services, preventing residents in Honiara from sending much-needed food supplies to the affected areas.
Despite these challenges, Katoravu acknowledged past efforts by the National Government to support vulnerable communities.