16 Feb 2018

Aid agencies want cash but communities want to contribute more

7:29 am on 16 February 2018

Supplies sent to cyclone-hit Pacific Islands could end up sitting unopened in ports, the Red Cross in Samoa says.

Caroline Pili Tufunga-Paepae from Otahuhu-Mangere Youth Group.

Caroline Pili Tufunga-Paepae from Otahuhu-Mangere Youth Group. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Community groups in New Zealand have set up collections for donated clothes and food to send to family and friends, but aid agencies are urging well-meaning groups to send cash rather than supplies.

Tonga was worst-hit by the category five storm that swept the region, while parts of Fiji and Samoa also suffered damage.

Red Cross secretary general in Samoa Namulauulu Tautala Mauala said groups sending goods could risk their containers sitting unopened in ports.

She said biosecurity regulations and tariffs could hinder the aid getting to its destination. Goods would be accepted but cash was more useful, she said.

"We have run household assessments and now we have started distributing, especially hygiene kits, water, we're also giving out temporary shelter, which are tarpaulin, things like that, according to the needs of our people."

Caroline Pili Tufunga-Paepae is part of the Otahuhu-Mangere Youth Group and said supporting the islands from Otahuhu, or what she calls 'Little Tonga', was natural.

The group plans to co-ordinate with larger aid agencies, to ensure goods reach their families and friends.

"Pacific Islanders ... family is the number one priority and I guess when something happens that's their first instinct, family, and we've got to actually get together and help."

Ms Tufunga-Paepae said it was important the community in New Zealand felt it was contributing.

Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka, who also sits on the Pacific advisory board to the Red Cross, said it would be unwise to discourage community help.

"I think that we can do both. If you ask a Tongan or Samoan or Pacific person they support the idea of having both."

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