From Dateline Pacific, 5:03 am on 18 July 2017
Nearly 50 families are still in desperate need of assistance nearly two years after Typhoon Soudelor ravaged the Northern Marianas island of Saipan.
The NGO Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, or CARE, has already raised $US2.4 million to assist 745 residents all over Saipan.
But CARE Executive Director Jenny Hegland says more is needed.
JENNY HEGLAND: We still need to raise $650,000 to be able to repair those homes and the scope of work is varied. Some of those homes are a major repair where we need six to eight thousand dollars, some of those are total rebuilds in which we need about $25,000 for the building material and then the labour is donated and that is how we are able to build the house for that budget. The total rebuilds we are doing, they are modest homes, they are about 600 square feet. We are trying to build semi-concrete as much as we can but those homes take a lot longer because we have to rely on the only one contractor on island who is willing and able to work with us right now because the volunteers don't have heavy equipment and able to do foundations and excavations and things like that. A lot of these homes, they went down to the slab or every single thing was gone. We are really rebuilding from the ground up. The families will contribute what they receive from FEMA, [Federal Emergency Management Agency], but FEMA funding is nowhere near enough to make families whole and to actually rebuild a house and that is where our role comes in is we are filling in that gap.
KORO VAKA'UTA: What kind of situation are these families living in in the meantime? It's been nearly a couple of years since Soudelor so how are they living at the moment?
JH: It really varies. Some families are still living in tents on their own properties or in makeshift shacks. Some are living with other family members in overcrowded conditions. Some are living in portions of their homes. Of course some are staying with friends. It really does vary. That comes down to individual choice. We have unfortunately had several circumstances where the family leaves their property things get stolen or vandalises. Here on island people are very connected to their land and not often do they want to leave their land if there is any way they can stay there.
KV: There must be health issues around that as well if they are in that kind of makeshift situation?
JH: We know that social determinants of health like the environment in which individuals live has the greatest impact on their overall health. Certainly when we see individuals with chronic medical conditions for example, being without walls and a roof around them, that is not ideal. However the island community is very resilient. People are used to outdoor living spaces and different kinds of standards than might be the norm than on the US mainland or other more developed places. I would say that yes it is not ideal and certainly especially if people have pre-existing health conditions it is not helping especially in terms of comfort and things. Actually I don't have any data on that but anecdotally one thing I can say too is that something that impacts people's general well-being is having hope that their life is going to be able to be restored after a devastating disaster like this.