Out in the field

By Asenati Tuiletufuga, Senior Program Manager, AusAID

Cyclone Evan has been devastating. This severe storm has conjured up memories of the tsunami which struck Samoa in 2009. There was little we could do except bunker down, wait and hope.

The cyclone made landfall at night so it wasn’t until the morning that we saw the damage. It was shocking.

Asenati (foreground) with the assessement team interviewing a family from Lefaga. Photo: Kevin Hadfield / AusAID

Even though I experienced the horrible aftermath of the 2009 tsunami, I wasn’t prepared for the widespread damage this latest cyclone caused to Samoa’s inland and coastal areas. Beautiful hills that had previously been lush with thick vegetation were
suddenly stripped bare.

Far worse—and heartbreaking—was the damage caused to homes, schools and churches, and the decimated food crops. Samoa’s beautiful landscape now looks like it has been through a blender.

The worst hit areas are villages  located near rivers, like Lefaga on the southern coast. The villages became flood zones overnight, with rivers unable to handle the sudden volume of water. Flash flooding destroyed almost everything in its path and some areas now find themselves under half a metre of sediment.

As I travelled with the damage assessment team interviewing families it started to sink in how badly whole villages had been hit.

One family I spoke to had lost their home and main source of sustenance, their crops. They told us that they have no money, no power, no water and the food from their remaining crops will only last about a week. So many other families are in the same situation—in dire need of shelter, food, and clean water.

Despite the loss of possessions, homes and livelihoods I can see the same strong sense of pride and resilience from Samoa that I saw three years ago, when that devastating tsunami washed over us.

After interviewing a local church leader and his wife he offered what little food he had to our visiting team. This is called fa’a Samoa, or the Samoan way. We couldn’t accept his
offer, but it reaffirmed the generosity Samoans show, even in adversity. It is the kind of generosity that will help us get through this disaster too.

About the author: Asenati Tuiletufuga

Asenati Tuiletufuga is a Senior Program Manager responsible for initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Public Service to support Samoa’s national development goals and reform priorities.

 

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About Engage

The Australian Government’s overseas aid program is improving the lives of millions of people in developing countries. Australia is working with the governments and people of developing countries to deliver aid where it is most needed and most effective. Australian aid has helped our neighbours and countries further abroad to develop. For example, Australian aid has wiped out polio from the Pacific. Australian aid has seen more than 1.5 million children immunised against measles and polio in Papua New Guinea. We helped build the first bridge across the Mekong River in East Asia, boosting economic opportunities for millions of people living in the region. And our water supply and sanitation programs are providing clean water for nearly 500,000 people in Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.