Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Heart Is Breaking

The landing area in 2014. Note the building on the left.
After a nice sail to Havannah Bay area on the west side of Efate, we spent the night at anchor. S/Y Caduceus joined us later in the evening. We both headed out at sunrise to make a one day sail of 75 km to Awei, northwest of Efate.

Good wind made for a good sail! The anchorage at Awei is always a welcome site, as it is protected and relatively calm.

Unfortunately, there were three boats plus Caduceus already anchored, so we couldn’t get behind the island. We anchored in deep water which makes for an uneasy sleep. Our plan was to move in when someone leaves as no one stays in one place too long.

Same area in 2015. That is the same building as the one
on the left of the photo above.
Having tried to contact Vincent (cousin of Chief Kaisa on Avokh) unsuccessfully, we decided to go ashore with a tank of petrol (gasoline) for their generator. Instead of bringing kava to the Chief, we like to take something more useful. Petrol (which we later learned they call "benzene") is difficult to come by so it will be graciously accepted.

And Dennis wanted to assess the generator situation. Last year he told them how to maintain it since it looked like it had never been serviced or had the oil changed. We will see …

Structures in 2015. They lost 11 houses, but no deaths.
Dr. Elizabeth and Martin joined us on our shore trip. She had been there several weeks before and wanted to follow up on a patient with heart failure and edema. She had also told us of the need to clean and disinfect the Aid Post so we purchased a broom, mop, bucket, sponges, rubber gloves and disinfectant solution.

The plan was to have the women take interest in the well-being of the community by learning to keep the Aid Post clean for visiting doctors and nurses. There is an Aid Post Committee, but apparently all they do is meet!

Structures in 2014
And since they are all men, I doubt they will take up the mop and bucket! We will see if this will communicate!

Chief Kaisa took us around the island to see the patients, as several more had conditions needing a doctor. One young man had a nasty hole in his ankle from a sting ray sting and it was severely infected. The heart patient’s legs where so swollen that they were oozing fluid and his left arm was huge with edema. 

First stop: Aid Post. This place needed a thorough cleaning on
 the examination room side. We gave them the tools to do it!
Several others had infected injuries that needed treatment. An elderly lady who had broken her hip several months ago wanted help. Since the break had mended itself with the leg twisted to the right, there was nothing Dr. E. could do. She had consulted with the hospital in Port Vila, but there is no one with orthopedic expertise or experience there. Other than pain medication, nothing can be done for this lady. It is a sad state of affairs, indeed.
Dr. E. checked the supplies only to find there was not much
available. She will send more up with us when we return.
While Dr. E. was busy with patients, Dennis and I talked with Chief Kaisa about the needs of the village. My heart was aching from the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam. This beautiful little village is in bad shape. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of what was here and wonder how they can get it back together. They have begun to rebuild houses, but there is so much to be done!
Many infections are from cuts that get wet in
the salt water. The flies attack the flesh and
often a nasty staph infection will develop!
The village was very neat and well-kept last year even though the people are so poor. The cyclone destroyed a number of homes and fences, took down many, many trees – including the large breadfruit trees – and took the roof completely off the community building along with half of the rafters. That was a lovely building where we had Kae Kae and Kava tasting a year ago.
George is in heart failure and not much can be done here.
The hole in Owlen's leg from the stingray is badly infected.

Don't mess with string rays! They come out at night!

Lots of vegetation in 2014.
The gardens have been planted and some harvesting is being done; the trees have leafed out, but there are no fruits and few coconuts, which provide clean and healthy hydration. It will be a year before they will be abundant again. There is no clean drinking water on Avokh as the collection system has been damaged and cisterns contaminated. The villagers carry drinking water from the streams on the mainland in their canoes.

The beach in 2014.
The beach this year.
Surrounded by salt water, the village is dying for clean water to drink. We had been saving Coke and tonic bottles to transport two liters of water in each. As long as our water maker holds out, we keep refilling the dozen two liter bottles and taking them ashore where the people pour them into other vessels and return the bottles for a refill.

This is someone's kitchen now.
Dennis and Martin surveyed the water situation on the island. One of the cisterns needs serious cleaning and decontamination. One is okay – somewhat brackish, but usable for cooking. Dishes are washed in the sea. People bathe in the sea – and loved all of the bars of soap donated by the students at Wentworth College in New Zealand. The same students had donated many toothbrushes which we handed off to Donna and Jonathan on Chez Nous for the dental clinic that moves through the islands.

The kids are always adorable!
The island needs gutters on some of the buildings to collect rain water and direct it into the cisterns and water tanks. Some of the natural roofing materials make the water undrinkable so only certain structures are used to collect water. The connections are insufficient for getting the water into the proper holding areas. Dennis is going to see what he can do to remedy the situation and we will go back to Port Vila and buy gutter material and supplies. It looks like we will be spending several weeks here working on projects.

Now destroyed, this was one of two baking ovens here.
We brought a lot of stuff, but it is only enough for everyone to have something. Some of the goods will be used by the community for gatherings and events that bring in some money. They are still performing the Kastom Dancing and Kae Kae and Kava Tasting for visiting yachts. It brings in 3500 Vatu per person. At two to four people at a time, it is a very slow cash flow. I will use my Publisher program to update their tourist brochure and suggest several ideas for marketing their island to passing yachts.

My little buddy, Nella in the middle, with her cousins.
The village has to pay for the teachers, vaccinations and taxes to the government (even though they are not getting any help in return) with the monies they generate. They sell fish to the boat that comes by on Thursdays to pick it up. Other than that, there is no income. I am not sure where the fish go, but it doesn’t appeal to me that it has been sitting in coolers with no ice for several days before being put on Big Sista, the boat that delivers throughout the islands in Vanuatu. It is also a passenger ferry, if one can afford the fare.

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