Samoa natural disaster interview with Veronique de Clerck, Emergency Coordinator


"We’ve actually seen quite a positive and impressive response. The main affected areas are on the south coast, from the far eastern tip which is a town called Lalomanu. It’s taken away about half of the south coast of Upolu Island, one of the islands of Samoa. The full beach has been pretty much wiped away, with all the houses and a fair few people with it. Then there are some smaller parts along the southern coast. There is a smaller island called Manono Island. The tsunami came in from a south eastern angle so any village that was likely to receive that direction of wave has been hit quite badly.

"A lot of people who have minor wounds like lesions or bruises and they still need attention. The main problem with these wounds is that due to the salt water and the lack of medical care, they can get infected at a later stage. That is the main problem today. However, it has been taken care of quite well by the initial response initiated by the Samoan Government, with the support of the Australian and New Zealand Governments.

"Another problem is the psychosocial consequences of a natural disaster like this. Obviously people are traumatised, they have lost all their assets and some people have lost a large number of family members. There’s been a lot of volunteers – Samoan individuals putting up their hands saying that’s what they want to help with, which is great. At the same time, they lack the experience to address such specific problems so that’s maybe where MSF could assist: to help these inexperienced counsellors who are going into the bush, and who are going to talk to people and do some kind of light counseling. The idea is that they then identify people who need more professional counseling, and they can be referred to professional psychologists."