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Niuafo'ou Island Awaits Food and Supplies
No aid has come to southern Pacific Ocean island after cyclone earlier this month
April Watson Miller (AprilDawn)     Print Article 
Published 2009-04-22 13:03 (KST)   

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Over 700 people are cut off from the world and growing hungry. Few know, and no one is doing anything.

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Surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of turbulent sea, Niuafo'ou Island is considered one of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth. No electricity exists save generators occasionally running on rare gasoline, and the limited phone service has sporadically operated since 1998.

The island is an active volcano encased in jagged lava rocks, jutting in all directions like plates of broken glass, constantly hacked and licked by fierce waves. This has made seafood a rarity to the people there. Lack of rainwater often hinders crops, and an increasingly sulfuric freshwater crater lake is killing the tilapia fish farmed there since the 1980's.

However, Niuafo'ou is currently home to over 700 people, over 50 percent children, including an Austrian teacher who has worked at the local high school since the 1990's, named Ferdinando Valentinotti.

Incidentally, Niuafo'ou was also my home from 2002-2004 as I taught English as a US Peace Corps. Making do with little above nothing, we stretched supplies to last between infrequent planes and boats and always rejoiced on the rare days when the world touched us.

Family members and friends abroad consistently sent necessities enabling the island to survive. So, I became filled with concern when I received this short email from Ferdinando on April 20, 2009:

"Myself is trying to survive since there is no more 'Olovaha coming here and no other supply boat. We run a short day program now to give students time to go fishing to the crater lake or the sea shore. It definitely feels like living on a very remote island. No planes either. No schedules. It has never been like this before, not for the last ten years. Never mind. Now I can find out that life is more than just eating and drinking."

After receiving this email, I began a massive, unfruitful effort to discover more information about what could be causing this. Bad weather may be the main contributor, as Niuafo'ou has no wharf and the rocky shores are impenetrable if any waves exist. However, other reasons, such as the lack of air service, remain hidden.

Aid must be activated. Since no interaction occurred during the past few months, a massive amount of mail, medical supplies, food and necessities must be weighing down the postal service and other supply carrier services in the kingdom's other ports.

Also stranded Niuans on other islands and non-Niuans on Niuafo'ou may be anxiously awaiting the next boat to attempt a trip, and desperately seeking work during the meantime.

You can find more photos of the island by clicking here for Steve's Picasa photo page.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter April Watson Miller

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