HUNGRY PUKAPUKA ISLANDERS IN DESPERATE NEED

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By Ulamila Kurai Wragg

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 31) – Pukapuka island is still in a desperate situation despite the food assistance brought in by visiting families from overseas via Samoa.

[PIR editor’s note: Among the most remote of the northern Cook Islands, Pukapuka is an atoll some 715 miles northwest of the country’s main island of Rarotongoa. The atoll is still recovering from the effects of a devastating series of cyclones in 2005.]

The island's member of parliament Vai Peua is banking on the arrival of a Taio shipping-owned boat today to alleviate the situation. The boat was due to arrive on Saturday but it had to call at Rakahanga first to get supplies and passengers there in time for the opening of a building.

The boat is sailing to Pukapuka after Manihiki.

Peua said the 150 people who sailed via Samoa brought some food but there was not enough to feed every one.

"There are many people on the island and they brought some food that meant one tin meat to one woman all this time," he said.

For months the islanders have been living off coconuts and breadfruit. The island is without sugar, salt, flour and rice.

This year the Pukapukan communities around the world celebrated the arrival of the gospel to their home island some 150 years ago. A number of these communities organised Christmas trips to the island.

Nearly one thousand people are on the island this festive season and without any fuel to take the boats out to catch fish, the islanders are living on what small portion of food each family was given by visiting families. The island is also without power except for those who use solar power.

"What we need here are the supplies from Rarotonga. These are orders made by the shops apart from private orders by families. The shops also ordered red benzene and diesel and food," Peua said.

"But I have just been told today (yesterday) that the Taio shipping boat is arriving tomorrow (today)."

Some three weeks ago bad weather forced the ship to abandon the offload of at least 100 tonnes of cargo in Pukapuka. The ship is making a return voyage and expected to berth off the island today.

Yesterday, Peua said the queen's representative Sir Frederick Goodwin stayed in contact with him "because he was here and he knew how we badly needed supplies from Rarotonga".

"The QR called me today (yesterday) asking how we were getting on and he is now relieved that the boat is coming tomorrow (today) to drop off our supplies that were not offloaded," Peua said.

"I know he is really concerned because he is saying that if we are still without supplies he will help me find a way to get the supplies from Rarotonga. He knows what we are going through here."

Sir Frederick was on the island early this month as chief guest for the official gospel day celebration. -

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