The Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) has always and continues to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
We support the fight for equality, liberation, and justice.
Vanuatu and Fiji are among the countries recovering from the impact of Cyclone Harold, a category 5 storm that hit the region in mid-April. $2.5m from the UN’s emergency humanitarian fund will help thousands of people in Vanuatu affected by Cyclone Harold. The UN has also offered support to other hard-hit countries in the South Pacific. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Initial assessments suggest as much as 90 percent of the population in Sanma, the most affected province of Vanuatu, lost their homes, and more than half of all schools and almost a quarter of health centres were damaged.” Emergency funds will go to safe drinking water, food, shelter, and healthcare.
Damage on the Vanuatu island of Pentecost has been compared to a bombing. Two of Vanuatu’s four deaths occurred there: a 90-year-old woman died after the cyclone tore off the roof of her home in Lekaro village, while a falling concrete wall at a church hall in Melsisi killed another woman. She had taken refuge with her family in a church hall where many others had sought shelter. The president of the newly-formed Port Vila Pentecost Disaster Committee, Ian Baltor, claims that response from the Red Cross and the National Disaster Management office ”was very late”, adding, “They have dropped off some relief packages but that was after a week. To me that is too long.”
The Fiji Government has declared a thirty-day State of Natural Disaster for areas affected by Cyclone Harold. This allows the permanent secretary and minister “the powers to use government resources for works needed in the affected areas to bring about normalcy”. For areas of the Pacific impacted by the cyclone, relief efforts have been impacted by the coronavirus. These countries are having to balance COVID-19 lockdown efforts with cyclone relief (at a time when Fiji has the virus) and subject any relief supplies to quarantine (three days in Vanuatu), among other issues.
For a comprehensive assessment of the COVID-19 virus as it is unfolding in many South Pacific countries and territories, please click here.
Prepared by Andy E. Nystrom, PPP Archivist & Research Assistant.
Talofa Lava Friends,
We are in an historic moment in time, one that has the potential to change our lives forever. While we are impacted differently in each part of the globe, we share the opportunity to address systemic changes and challenges that can positively transform our world, if we act together.
Early this month Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) marked our 45th Anniversary by launching a campaign for our Pacific Resilience Fund. Donations through this fund are distributed equitably throughout the South Pacific, and most importantly, they support Islander-led processes at the community level. Our local partners continue to work together and build resilience even in the face of recent crises, including COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold, both of which you will see covered with stories in this issue. PPP stands in solidarity with our friends and neighbors in the South Pacific – will you join us and be a part of building this legacy?
Makere – a recent donor to the Pacific Resilience Fund – wrote in the Maori language: “Tena koutou ki a koutou katoa, he koha iti, engari he koha aroha tenei…” “We are with you all. A little gift, but this is a love gift…”
This sentiment is shared by PPP’s Samoan-Canadian President Muavae Va’a, who passionately shared his own stories of resilience and urged your solidarity. “As a Pacific Islander, it is important to me to support our peoples back home… Let’s begin today…even small amounts will
be helpful.” We invite you to watch his 8-minute video message.
While the immediate challenges of the recent cyclone and COVID-19 crises may take up our days, we are all adjusting to this new reality. PPP and our partners continue to work in physical isolation, but please know that we are working hard to make an impact – even virtually!
Within this edition of Pasifik Currents, you will find feature stories on our 45th Anniversary, updates from the HELP Resources Papua New Guinea project Vendors Collective Voices, inspiring stories from up and coming young female leaders, plus more people, program and news updates.
Save the date: “Giving Tuesday” will take place on May 5th as an emergency response to COVID-19. This is a global day of giving and unity that demonstrates the power of our collective generosity. Look to hear from us and the communities we are supporting in the South Pacific.
Thank you for continuing this Pacific Peoples’ Partnership journey. We look forward to you standing in solidarity with us well into the future!
April Ingham, Executive Director
Pacific Peoples’ Partnership
Research and story compiled by Andy E. Nystrom, PPP Archivist & Research Assistant
The following information is accurate to April 15, 2020. For the most up-to-date information tracking the COVID-19 virus in South Pacific nations, we recommend Worldometer’s website which regularly updates cases, deaths, and testing. For most countries the information can be found here. For those countries that are under control of the United States, as well as Hawaii, click on USA in the above link or click here.
According to The Guardian’s weekly briefing on the Pacific on April 15, infection figures for the Pacific, while still low, more than doubled from the previous week. While Fiji, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia cases levelled out after their initial rise, they could rise again rapidly should containment efforts fail. A virtual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum on April 7 led to the establishment of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway for the Pacific (PHP-C), which “provides political commitment to the movement of humanitarian and medical assistance to countries affected by Covid-19, particularly where normal transport routes have been impeded by border closures.”
The following information from the above article on what the Pacific governments are doing as of mid-April is quoted verbatim, including the hyperlinks from the original article:
Papua New Guinea: The government has opened a Covid-19 treatment centre in Port Moresby, which can cater for up to 76 patients. Traditional border crossings (into and from Indonesia, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Solomon Islands) have been forbidden. The military has been deployed to patrol in some places, especially along the Indonesia border. More than 300 people have registered their interest in being repatriated from around the world.
Fiji: Specialised military vehicles received from China will be used in the fight against Covid-19. The government has allowed for repatriation flights from the US and Australia. Returnees will be required to undergo 14 days of strict quarantine on arrival.
Solomon Islands: Parliament has voted for a four-month state of emergency covering Honiara. Dr Claude Posala who is chair of the Solomon Islands Medical Association, was sacked after taking to Facebook to criticise the government response to Covid-19. The government has closed its maritime border with Bougainville and imposed a two-night curfew over the Easter weekend
Vanuatu: Authorities are maintaining strict protocols for receipt of medical and other humanitarian assistance to minimize risks of introducing the virus. This includes sanitation of supplies received and keeping any accompanying personnel air side. The government has determined that no foreign personnel will be allowed to enter Vanuatu to assist with the humanitarian response to cyclone Harold.
New Caledonia: Restrictions on travel and public gatherings have been extended until 19 April. The customary Senate has called for restrictions to be imposed for longer and wants all weddings this year cancelled. But the provincial president of the Loyalty Islands says the restrictions should be relaxed in his province. Repatriation flights continue, including from Japan and French Polynesia.
Samoa: The prime minister has indicated he has no intention of re-opening borders. The government has announced an economic stimulus package with focus on supporting tourism. The Samoa Hotels Association says 50 hotels have closed and 500 workers have been laid off, with more job losses expected.
Marshall Islands: The government has sought to quell community concerns about proposed and rumoured arrivals by sea and air. The Nitijela was reconvened for an emergency two-day session which included a lengthy briefing from the national disaster committee. An economic impact committee has been established to assess the impact of the shutdowns in various sectors including tourism, hospitality and aquaculture.
Federated States of Micronesia: President David Panuelo has announced a $15m economic stimulus package, with a focus on wage subsidies.
French Polynesia: President Édouard Fritch has advised citizens and residents who are stranded overseas, including in France, that there are no plans to facilitate their repatriation.
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: The government has announced that the public service will be cut in half as a result of a Covid-19 related economic collapse.
Reports from other sources are presented below:
Palau’s President Tommy Remengsau is enforcing strict isolation steps in his country. He has shut off the tourism-dependent nation and plans to continue the isolation until the rest of the world is over the worst of the virus, even if the cost to the government is 60% of tax revenue.
People breaking quarantines is an issue in the Pacific. “One sailor in Guam was caught leaving his room while in quarantine. Meanwhile in Fiji, multiple people breaking the strict lockdown rules has led Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to state those who breach any such regulations should be ‘dismissed’.”
The Hill is critical about the lack of coverage of US territories that are not one of the 50 states, noting that while stats for them are being reported, they are generally left off of corona virus maps of the US. Most Americans know about the USS Roosevelt being docked in Guam but little about Guam itself. In Guam the military “controls nearly a third of Guam’s land. COVID-19 infected sailors from the USS Roosevelt are being moved to the Guam Naval Hospital. Sailors who test negative and are asymptomatic are being quarantined in hotels and kept under military surveillance. This latter move has local leaders and the general public worried that they could endanger the island’s overall health.” The article also notes the difficulties in assessing contagion in the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa (the latter thus far having no confirmed cases) because “they both lack testing capacity and must send their specimens to Guam.”
By Chesa Abma
Early this year, after hearing about an exciting opportunity from PPP Executive Director, April Ingham, I found out I was selected by the BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) to go with the Inter-Council Network (ICN) youth delegation to attend the 64th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The delegation was comprised of eight fierce young women from across the country, all working in and passionate about areas related to gender equality. After connecting with my fellow delegates through webinars and navigating my way through the event schedules, I was full of excitement about what I would experience. My focus for CSW64 was issues related to justice and Indigenous rights.
In early March as we were getting ready to embark on our travels, we were disappointed to hear of the cancellation of CSW64 due to COVID-19. Although this was certainly the right choice, there were feelings of sadness for all the work done by individuals around the world to bring different discussions and events together that would now be cancelled or hopefully moved to an online platform.
Little did I know as I was coming to terms with the news, that Senator Marilou McPhederan and her team in Ottawa were coming up with an alternative. A Youth Forum for young women from across Canada. In a quick change of events, I found myself on route to Ottawa for the first time in my life. Over two days, we heard from many impressive and influential people: these included Afghan-Canadian politician and Minister for International Development, the Hon. Maryam Monsef; Canada’s first ambassador for women, peace and security, H.E. Jacqueline O’Neill; members of the Canadian Senate, and experienced professionals working for NGOs in the field of women’s rights and gender equality.
During our first Round Table, I was blown away by the important work being done within our different communities. It was inspiring hearing about all the efforts made towards achieving gender equality in areas that included but were not limited to health, Indigenous rights, gender-based violence, and LGBTQ2+ rights. I was appreciative of the representation in the room and the experience and wisdom that my fellow delegates brought forward. There were stories detailing the many complex issues faced by women nationally and globally and how the understanding of intersectionality is vital in addressing those issues. As I listened, I thought about how crucial it is that we continuously make the effort to come together and find out what is going on for folks in all communities both near and far. The experience of being in a room with so many strong young leaders was humbling in the best sense.
It was interesting to hear about the work and experience of the Senators and speakers. I appreciated hearing about their journeys and the insight they provided. Senator Mobina Jaffer told us that as women “we bring the point of view of the community, as we are the eyes and ears of the community.” I had so many questions, but there was limited time. I took away a lot from the thoughtful dialogue and difficult questions brought forward by everyone in the group. I appreciated that there were genuine invitations made by the Senators to continue the conversations with them.
As a young Indigenous woman, I had conflicted feelings about being in Ottawa and in a space where the decisions made have an immense impact on every aspect of our lives. It is hard not to think about how often the people most negatively impacted by these decisions face the most barriers in having their voices heard. For this reason, having the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas is not one I take lightly. I know that having this experience has added to my understanding of the Canadian Governmental structure and processes, which will continue to be helpful into the future. After listening to each other’s stories and feeling our collective determination and passion, I left Ottawa feeling hopeful, especially if efforts such as this one continue to engage diverse groups of young people.
It was an honour to witness the events over these two days. Hay’sxw’qa si’em to everyone who attended, Senator McPhedran and her team, all the guest speakers, BCCIC, ICN, PPP and April Ingham.
Chesa Abma, a member of Xwsepsum (Esquimalt Nation), is honoured to live and learn on her ancestral lands in the beautiful Lekwungen territory. As she has worked for Pacific Peoples’ Partnership in the past, she is grateful for the experience and knowledge gained and the relationships formed during her time with PPP. Sustained by her passion for education and justice, Chesa will be pursuing studies in the Indigenous Law Program at the University of Victoria in the Fall of 2020.