After their vulnerabilities were exposed during Cyclone Gabrielle, Pasifika men working in the region’s orchards, vineyards, and crops, are better connected to welfare and health services thanks to Turanga Health.
Turanga Health continues to support Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers nine months on from Cyclone Gabrielle, says chief executive Reweti Ropiha. “Being able to give a stable and trusted voice to this vulnerable community is one of the good things to come out of the terrible weather events of 2023.”
The region’s RSE workers, who are all male, live mainly in shared or communal accommodation. They come from Pacific Islands such as Samoa, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands.
When Cyclone Gabrielle hit, they had the same needs as many people: food, water, cash, and communications, but very few people to help them. They also required winter clothes and bedding, and recreational items.
Mr Ropiha says Turanga Health stepped up and activated a response to meet the emergency needs of 161 workers. “We used our existing relationships with the companies who employ them and funnelled staff and supplies quickly out there.”
Turanga Health staff also worked with the Pasifika Medical Association Group, which flew in Pasifika doctors and a physiotherapist, so RSE workers could receive medical check-ups. The checks happened at RSE workers’ accommodation, and at Turanga Health’s Manawaru hub in Elgin. Staff from Te Whatu Ora and the New Zealand Police were also recovery partners.
Now, nine months on, Turanga Health continues to work with the workers and the wider Pasifika community, focusing on improved access to dental care, health services, and opportunities for gathering as a community. “We’ve also carried out research into the region’s Pasifika community and are currently using this data to address other identified gaps in health and welfare services.”
Mr Ropiha tabled Turanga Health’s 2023 annual report during the iwi health organisation’s annual general meeting this week, and emphasised “it was a year of two halves”.
“The first six months between July and December 2022, gave us a chance to reignite services that had been impacted by the pandemic, and consolidate what we had learned in the vaccination space.” But the game changed in the second week of February 2023 when the cyclone hit. “Our mahi was like that of our Covid-19 response. We were able to pivot quickly.”
In the first four days after Cyclone Gabrielle, Turanga Health: contacted 816 whānau and offered support; cooked 1,000 meals; delivered 230 kai parcels; made 50 medication deliveries; and transported 56 whānau to a preferred location or to healthcare. In collaboration with other organisations, it helped relocate two generators, 8 starlinks, and one atm around the region.
Then, just weeks later, the organisation was back into hosting its large drive-through whānau vaccination events offering Covid-19, influenza, childhood and hapū māmā vaccinations in one place. During one day alone in April, Turanga Health administered nearly 10 percent of the country’s total Covid booster immunisations in just four hours. “Not bad for a small iwi health organisation in a region battered just weeks before.”
Read the annual report.
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