Monday, 11 January 2010 12:24 PM

New Zealand Red Cross Specialists to Assist in Solomon Islands

Two New Zealand Red Cross Information Technology and Telecommunication technicians left for the Solomon Islands yesterday to help relief efforts in the country in the wake of last week's earthquakes and tsunami.

Rex Aubrey (from Plimmerton) and Matthew Poole (from Auckland), both trained Red Cross aid workers, left for the Solomon Islands yesterday. They will be based in Honiara working closely with the Solomon Islands Red Cross. Their task is expected to only take seven days.

Ongoing power and internet outages as well as IT system software and hardware failures within the country and within Solomon Islands Red Cross have created significant difficulties for the organisation to maintain ongoing contact with key partners, field staff and external contacts. Without effective and reliable IT and telecommunications support, disaster response and ongoing recovery programmes will be severely hampered. Rex Aubrey has deployed with Red Cross to the Solomon Islands previously, and is confident that he and Matthew can get systems up and running smoothly again.

"The problem boils down to power supply. There are a lot of different elements feeding off a power source and when this is the case, circuits break," he says.

Rex and Matthew took a quantity of specialist IT equipment with them into the country but for the most part will rely on using local resources.

This trip to the Solomon Islands will be Matthew Poole's first mission with New Zealand Red Cross, having just completed his initial humanitarian aid worker training in September last year.

"I was quite surprised to be leaving on mission so quickly, but I'm looking forward to applying my skills. I work in IT, so coupled with the skills I've learnt with the Red Cross training I have done, I am well prepared," says Matthew.

The islands were hit by a series of quakes early last week, the largest of which was magnitude 7.2, triggering landslides and a three-metre tsunami which ploughed into the coastline. An aftershock measuring 6.9 also hit the region.

No one was injured but more than 1000 people were left homeless on the island of Rendova.

The Solomon Islands Red Cross has received $20,000 from the New Zealand Government to assist with relief and recovery efforts.

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