WORLD

The Life-Saving Idea That Involves Solomon Islands Taxi Drivers

Disaster innovation can come from unlikely places.

19/10/2016 6:56 AM AEDT | Updated 20/10/2016 4:08 PM AEDT
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Taxi drivers become first aid responders after a disaster in the Solomon Islands.

At a meeting of some of the world's best disaster management experts on the planet, it was a Solomon Islands nurse who blew everyone away.

At Darwin's National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre this month, experts from China, Korea, Spain, Italy, the Philippines and more gathered -- many with World Health Organisation postings, multiple degrees and international experience.

The conversation often turns to the nitty gritty ways teams make the indescribable chaos of a disaster zone more manageable (these people get excited about a new fold-down tap design or hand-washing stations).

Yet the idea that had everyone abuzz came from anaesthetic nurse Zephania 'Doke' Roba.

AOL
Zephania 'Doke' Roba came up with an idea that could be replicated around the world.

His island home is prone to earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis, so much so that his family has an emergency bag and first aid kit ready and packed so they can leave for higher ground at any second.

Doke has served as a logistics manager after disasters in the region and he's seen first hand how the island nation's limited resources make a response difficult.

After training in Australia, he came up with a way to spring a kind of ambulance service out of thin air.

"Unfortunately the hospital has only six vehicles," Doke told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We usually get support from the police but they have to look after the whole town as well.

"So, in 2015, I got 50 taxi drivers trained as first aid responders."

It's this type of innovation that saves lives in the field.

Zephania Doke Roba
Taxi drivers are trained in first aid.

Roba said he realised his nation needed some lateral thinking after he served in the aftermath of the Solomon Islands Tsunami in 2007.

"It was devastating," Doke said.

"I felt sorry for my people. The province I was deployed to, the hospital was gone and all residential areas gone also. It was quite a depressive experience for me.

"International help did arrive straight after three days -- we had teams from Japan, we had some from Australia, some from France and we had an assistant boat from the U.S. navy but it made me think we needed to be able to provide basic support while we waited."

Peter Pinnock
The Solomon Islands may have a lot of disasters, but it's also beautiful.

Doke will continue his disaster management training with Australia (whose teachers took note when he came up with his taxi idea) and said the overall goal was to save more lives after a disaster.

"To me, coming to Australia is a bonus," he said.

"It's a great help to get to interact with other people from around the world. They have different ideas and different ways to manage a disaster.

"I learn a lot from them, I share my ideas as well and when I go home, I hope to put them together to adapt our program so we can do better next time a disaster strikes.

"The Solomon Islands is affected by many disasters, but it's where I call home. It's a very beautiful place."

This story has been edited as it incorrectly mentioned the Boxing Day Tsunami.

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