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The business of relief in Samoa

October 8, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Carol Ward/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Staff from South Pacific Business Development, Mercy Corps' local partner, pack relief supplies for delivery to poor women who lost everything in last week's tsunami. Photo: Carol Ward/Mercy Corps

In order to bury and mourn those who died in the tsunami on September 29, today was designated a half-day national holiday by the Government of Western Samoa. This meant that the staff at South Pacific Business Development, our local partner, had a lot to do. In addition to their normal work of servicing the loans made to poor business women, they purchased items for relief packages and made the arrangements for distributing them tomorrow to women who were severely affected by the tsunami.

In the meantime, we have been working out the details of a public works program that we hope to initiate — if we can find funding. We expect that temporary employment would reintroduce cash flows into beneficiary communities, help to revitalise local markets and restore basic economic functions. There will be an Early Recovery Coordination meeting tomorrow, where we hope to discuss our plans with other agencies like the Red Cross, to avoid duplication of efforts and harmonise details.

I went to the bank today to change money and found that the U.S. dollar has fallen against the Western Samoan Tala for the third day in a row. This will make all our programs relatively more expensive. As this is an island where almost everything is imported, making things very pricey. I was shocked to find that a wheelbarrow costs about U.S. $250!

Right, I had better get back to helping people pack things up!