Updates On the Ground


The breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic has impugned the most vulnerable with unique challenges, affecting regions of the world differently. Connecting with our global scope of ground partners and beneficiaries, Barefoot College is granted with accurate regional insight that can help people and partners to address issues on a case-by-case basis.

For example, in the Pacific Islands, it’s not the number of COVID-positive cases or deaths that have threatened the living conditions of its civilians. In Papua New Guinea, the first positive case detected resulted in lockdown orders swiftly and with little prior notice.

After-effects of a devastating season in Vanuatu. Photo courtesy of UNICEF


Reports tell us that although the number of those infected has remained relatively low, the effects of a sudden lockdown and the practice of serious precautionary actions have devastated many local businesses and created inaccessibility to many essential resources. Extreme poverty, therefore, is a potential future for many residents.

The region has also had to endure tropical Cyclone Harold this April, that barraged several islands with category 5 storms. Vanuatu, Tonga and the south of Fiji experienced extreme weather, for instance, destroying homes and tearing through fragile ecosystems and shorelines.

Damage in Tonga will take many months and resources to repair. Photo courtesy of AlJazeera


Solar Mama Viviane Obeds of Vanuatu reached out to Barefoot’s regional coordinators, expressing her worry about the struggles her community might face while trying to rebuild their damaged infrastructure. In addition to the pandemic, access to clean water has become a major concern. There has since been a rise in other diseases including dengue and malaria, and humanitarian support has become delayed and limited due to COVID-related factors.

Complex Situations, Mindful Solutions

FLMMA, Barefoot’s Fijian ground partner, is hoping to alleviate the hardships of some of its residents. Plans to supply solar equipment to its Solar Mamas located in the worst affected areas such as Kadavu are underway. This support can act as a means of livelihood for these women while external income opportunities are shelved due to the lockdown. Additionally, it will provide villages with clean, reliable sources of light while grid electricity is damaged and non-functional.

Solar electricity as a source of renewable energy also provides long-term resilience for inhabitants who may increasingly have to confront severe weather conditions. Acute weather continues to compromise conventional electricity sources on a global scale. These harrowing disturbances are expected to worsen in the coming years as Climate Change is exacerbated.

Solar Mama Ilisapeti Halauafu remains busy, focusing on her handicrafts


Staying Positive and Safe

Meanwhile in Tonga, although relief efforts are still just gaining traction, Solar Mama Ilisapeti Halauafu has continued to keep busy by creating her traditional handicrafts; Salusalu and Faka Haapai costume skirts. She now partakes in Zoom church congregations, which interestingly have connected her with global churchgoers. Looking on the bright side of all that’s occurring around her and around everyone Worldwide, she’s been able to communicate with new acquaintances from different countries and feel the strength of solidarity despite the distance between them.

Traditional handmade Tongan skirts

Looking forward, preparations and relief efforts must take into account various elements of cause and effect that vulnerable civilians are confronted with. Otherwise, factors won’t be accurately addressed, and women, children and migrant workers, for example, could get left behind. The preemptive protection of these demographics will result in more resilient, hopeful communities as a whole.


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Feature photo source: Financial Times