Defence Force assists drought stricken Tuvalu

Defence Force assists drought stricken Tuvalu OCT 2011

PHOTO CAPTION: 0050 - Medic Lance Corporal Sophie Woodman speaks with a nurse educator at the hospital in Tuvalu.

14 October 2011

A NZ Defence Force water desalination unit has so far produced around 100,000 litres of potable water, giving much needed water supplies to the people of Tuvalu.

The Micro Filtration Reverse Osmosis (MFRO) portable equipment which turns salt water into fresh water was airlifted to Funafuti by an RNZAF C-130 Hercules and has been operational since Monday evening.

Bulk supplies have been delivered to the hospital and a number of key distribution points on Funafuti as required. With the arrival of additional portable containers, further supplies will be distributed to schools.

The water situation on the island group is improving, but there is still only 5–10% probability of heavier than light rainfall over the next eight days.

This is the second time that Army personnel from 2nd Engineer Regiment have deployed to operate the desalination plant following the Christchurch earthquake earlier this year, says Major Terry McDonald, Commander of the Land Forces Component in Tuvalu.

“The MFRO continues to produce a good rate of water which has helped to alleviate the immediate water shortage on the island. Working in the tropical heat with temperatures exceeding 34ºC has been a challenge and we have had to ensure the plant remains cool, thereby operating at maximum efficiency. 

“Defence Force personnel are working closely with MFAT, NGOs, the NZ High Commission and the Government of Tuvalu to provide an appropriate response to this emergency. We have also been supported by the Royal Australian Air Force who helped with the initial airlift of equipment and supplies.”

An Army Environmental Health Officer and medical personnel have accompanied local Public Health Board officials undertaking a door to door health survey and assessment of Funafuti dwellings. 

In the initial response last week, Defence Force personnel were flown in by RNZAF C130 and made repairs to the main desalination plant on Funafuti and they continue to assist with running of the 8 tonne-per-day plant located at the disused wharf.

An additional desalination plant and Red Cross personnel were flown in by RNZAF C130 to Funafuti and transported by local patrol boat to the island of Nukulaelae.

A Royal Australian Air Force C17 Globemaster arrived in Apia earlier this week with supplies and personnel and a RNZAF C-130 created an airbridge between Apia and Tuvalu during the last four days as the C17 was too large to land any closer to Tuvalu.

NZ Defence Force has also worked with MFAT to provide assistance to Tokelau, and the situation there is now stable. Defence Force personnel worked with the crew of the US Coastguard Cutter WALNUT to deliver 43,000 litres of potable water to Fakaofo, 40,000 litres to Atafu and 40,000 litres to Nukuanono.


For further information contact Major John Gordon on 021 478 574 or Kirsty Taylor-Doig on 021 806 926.

This page was last reviewed on 14 October 2011.