30 Sep 2003

First stage of food aid to Weathercoast in Solomon Islands nearly complete

6:29 am on 30 September 2003

The National Disaster Management Office in Solomon Islands says stage one of providing food aid and gardens to communities on the Weathercoast is nearly complete.

Before his arrest last month, the rebel leader Harold Keke had sparked widerspread violence on the Weathercoast leaving many people homeless or at least struggling to feed themselves.

The violence forced many hundreds to flee to Honiara but thousands remained on the Weathercoast.

The Disaster Management Office's Deputy Director, Martin Karani, says the Regional Assistance Mission, or RAMSI, is providing supplementary food aid through Australia's aid programme.

The relief will assist 88 villages and supplement the food sources of almost 8000 people.

Mr Karani says the aid relief exercise has had favourable weather conditions, and he says people are enjoying replanting their gardens.

"What we are hoping to do is with this food, the people will be able to eat and at the same time re-establish their gardens. During the past two three years when people are fearful of going to the bush to make gardens, and because of that there were no gardens up until the time when peace restored"

He says a second round of deliveries to the Weathercoast will begin on Wednesday.