SIKAIANA STARVING

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Sikaiana Island. PHOTO GEORGE HERMING
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8 months no ship, schools closed, no food & medicine

BY IRWIN ANGIKI

February was the last time a ship visited Sikaiana. Now, eight months later, people are reportedly starving.

“There is no food, medicine, the school has closed to allow children to accompany their parents to the smaller islets to forage for food, more and more people are getting sick,” Sikaiana MPA Ezekiel Teusa says.

Around 200 people live on Sikaiana, mostly children, Teusa adds.

Concerned individuals from Sikaiana in Honiara have rallied together to call on their member of parliament and the national government to send a ship with relief supplies to the isolated atolls.

Spokesperson Tera Tavao told Island Sun, during their meeting on Sunday they resolved to exhaust all means of reaching out to their MP, Martin Kealoe Mokolo, and the national government to ask for a ship to be sent to Sikaiana.

Sikaiana belongs to the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) constituency.

MP Mokolo could not be reached for comments, however MOI constituency development officer (CDO) John Selwyn says the constituency cannot help the people on Sikaiana because of lack of funds.

“[MOI] constituency cannot charter a ship because the funds for this year have all been exhausted, expended according to their allocations.

“Sikaiana usually depends on the government franchise system which services uneconomical routes. But the contract for MV Airi expired earlier this year, and MID has put up this service for tender but the process is slow and the tender is yet to be made.

“MP Mokolo has been trying his best, even going as far as seeking an audience with the Minister for MID, to seek the possibility of quickly facilitating a ship to be sent to Sikaiana.”

Permanent Secretary to MID, Mr Steven Maesiola, responding to Island Sun enquiry, says he will try and push for the Central Tender Board (CTB) to prioritise the franchise so that a ship could be sent this month.

“I’ll try my best this week to arrange any ship to go this week or next week.

“The tender for Sikaiana franchise was not brought up in the recent CTB meeting, I’ll push for the CTB to quickly meet on this matter this week.”

He says he and the MP for MOI are working on this matter, adding that since the route is categorised as an uneconomical one, it is quite difficult to find any ship.

Meanwhile, he calls for understanding from the people of Sikaiana, saying that the process takes time.

“You cannot depend and blame the government all the time. We follow a process. And these things take time.

“A ship cannot go when there is no funds. In this kind of situation there should be understanding.

“And, they have their own member of parliament to help them too. He should intervene and support them and organise a ship.

“It is unfair for them to expect on the government. It depends on availability on funds, on the government meeting any franchise, on when the CTB will approve the tender, etc.”

Mr Tavao welcomes MID PS Maesiola’s reassurance of help to Sikaiana.

“This is good news, and we hope it will eventuate as soon as the PS has said.

“It is going eight months now, and our people are starving. People on Sikaiana depend on processed food from the shops, such as rice, noodles, sugar, tealeaf and necessities such as washing and bathing soap, fuel to move about in the boats, etc.

“Now that the supplies have been depleted, people on Sikaiana are resorting to taro, banana, and coconut for food, supplemented by fish.

“Food is also getting scarce because of the time it takes for crops, such as taro, and banana to mature and be ready for consumption.”

MPA Teusa, in reiterating the call for the MP and national government to send a ship to Sikaiana, says:

“As the provincial member for Sikaiana, I am really sad and am pressured every day by the plight faced by my people.

“I have been trying my best to get a ship to Sikaiana, including bringing the matter to the attention of the prime minister along with the MOI MP earlier this year, and also meeting with the department within MID responsible for the franchise tender today [yesterday].

“So far, I have been told that the tender has not been brought before the CTB.

“And I have been instructed to write a letter to the MID department for franchise detailing the plight of my people of Sikaiana, explaining why a ship must immediately be sent there.

“So, I have written a letter and will submit it to the MID department responsible for the franchise tender tomorrow [today].

“News from home Sikaiana is gut wrenching. There is simply no food, no medicine, no rice, even no smoke, nothing left. All forms of fuel have run out three months ago.

“The school has closed, with only form three classes being retained few classes per week, while the rest of the children are left to accompany their parents to the surrounding islets to forage for food.”


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