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Tuesday 22 February 2022 10:46am

tongamainDr Shyamal Das (front-left) and Associate Dean (Pacific) of Sciences Dr Losa Moata’ane (front-right) joined by Dean of the School of Pharmacy Dr Carlo Marra and Associate Dean (Pacific) of Health Sciences Dr Xaviour Walker.

University of Otago staff have used their professional connections to help the recovery effort in Tonga.

Associate Professor Shyamal Das, Professor Carlo Marra, and Dr Losa Moata’ane are coordinating an initiative to supply 50 litres of hand sanitiser to Tonga in the wake of last month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami which killed three people and caused widespread disruption.

The hand sanitiser was prepared at the University by Dr Das and his seven student volunteers, who have previously produced more than 1,200 litres of the ethanol-based rub to protect essential workers on campus and in the community.

Dr Moata’ane has previously used this in-house sanitiser for the ‘Moana Nui’ event at Forsyth Barr Stadium last year. When Dr Das was approached by Dr Moata’ane about the sanitiser, his team moved quickly to manufacture it ahead of the larger relief shipment being sent to Tonga.

“When Losa asked me, I immediately asked Professor Carlo Marra, Dean of the School of Pharmacy, whether he would support the relevant expenditure. Carlo immediately approved,” Dr Das says.

With the limited timeframe, the School of Pharmacy was unable to order the necessary chemicals for the sanitizer so Dr Das searched through the raw materials available for regular research at the School of Pharmacy.

“We could prepare 50 litres of hand sanitiser with our stock,” Dr Das says.

tongabanner2Dr Shyamal Das and Dr Carlo Marra with their student volunteers Bishal Adhikari (left), Catherine Su, Anlin Lyu, Tushar Saha, Komal Taya, Rishi Shah & Rakesh Bastola (right).

Finding dispensing bottles became the next big challenge. Fortunately, head technician Blake Gibson was able to find some after “a long search”.

“This was all possible because ‘Das laboratory’ has all the permissions, paperwork, lab facilities and trained pharmaceutical science students to prepare hand sanitiser in emergency situations such as these,” Dr Das says.

“We feel privileged to help the Tongan community during this hard time.”

Dr Losa Moata’ane also coordinated an information evening while contact between Aotearoa and Tonga was still severed following the eruption.

During this event, Dr Marco Brenna from the University’s Department of Geology spoke on his research of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano.

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