Now, and in the future

Saving lives in the Solomon Islands

Disaster can destroy lives and undo years of development in a split second.

In Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, annual flooding can decimate the food supply — especially where logging has taken place above areas where people grow their food.

For women like Sailin, Hilda and Unity — who rely on their gardens as a food source — it means their families can go hungry. But thanks to our generous supporters like you, things are changing in Guadalcanal. Oxfam’s program work is helping communities become better prepared for when disaster strikes.

“My house was washed away by the river. Most of my things were in the house, so I lost my belongings. That time all our gardens were along the river, they were destroyed too”.

— Sailin Biato, 40

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Sailin was devastated to discover she’d lost everything in the annual floods: “When I saw this happening I started to cry, I couldn’t believe that I lost everything. Water was everywhere, sometimes up to our necks,” says Sailin.

But since Sailin and her community have received training from Oxfam, they’ve made impressive changes.

“With training that we received from Oxfam we made some changes of how we do our gardening. Now we plant some of our crops further inland. My family built our new house close to the new garden and now we live in a safer place and well prepared for the future disasters”.

“Here in the village we experience floods and droughts. The weather is totally different from what we used to have before. We have flood after flood, strong wind after strong wind, rain after rain, we can’t predict weather anymore”.

— Hilda David 39

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Hilda knows the hardship of supporting a family in the aftermath of disaster.

“After the floods we are always hungry, there is not enough food for our family. Now we earn less money because we can’t sell what we produce in the market. I have three children, two boys and one girl. I don’t have money anymore to pay for their school fees, so they had to leave school before finishing it,” said Hilda.

But she says after Oxfam training, they can better prepare for future disasters: “After Oxfam trained us we have knowledge of how to minimise the disaster impact on our families. We moved our house inland …”

Oxfam has also implemented livelihoods activities including agricultural training, seed and tool provision, as well as food security.

“Oxfam trained us on disaster management. Now we have all the information about it and this gives us all the knowledge on different times of disasters and when we receive warnings we can quickly prepare ourselves”

— Unity Cuba, 48

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Unity is the women’s leader of Katehana village in Guadalcanal. She, like Sailin and Hilda, was vulnerable to the flooding, but she says that the community is now better prepared to deal with a natural disaster after their training with Oxfam.

“We mostly experience three kinds of disasters. First is floods that destroy our gardens and pollute our water wells. Second is landslides. Last time a landslide destroyed my pigsty and chicken house and some crops and fruit trees. They all went down. Luckily I wan’t working there, otherwise I would be probably dead or injured. The third type of disasters are cyclones and very strong winds. Storms brake our trees, houses, destroy roofs. Our church was partly destroyed too because of the strong wind” says Unity.

“Before we have different type of crops, but we didn’t know where and how to plant them to avoid food shortage. Now we know how to manage our gardens so at the time of disaster we still have food”.

Photo: Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS

Your ongoing support means we can continue to empower and train vulnerable communities to lift themselves out of poverty — both in the short-term and the long-term. Thank you.

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All images by Vlad Sokhin/Panos/OxfamAUS