31 March 2016
The Red Cross is helping people to recover from the largest cyclone ever recorded in Fiji, which left 44 people dead and thousands homeless.
Approximately 350,000 people – over a third of the country’s population – were affected when Cyclone Winston struck on 20-21 February.
More than 32,000 houses were damaged or destroyed and 361 people are still sheltering in 26 evacuation centres. In some villages, only three houses were left standing.
While access to safe drinking water has been restored to 150,000 people, another 100,000 still have no safe water supply. Many communities now have no usable toilets.
Money from the British Red Cross Disaster Fund will now be used to help people rebuild their homes and stay safe from water-borne disease.
Urgent need for shelter, water and support
Working together with Red Cross partners, the Fiji Red Cross will support 38,500 people in the most severely affected areas.
Fiji Red Cross operations manager Eseroma Ledua said: “Our priority for the next month is shelter, but we are also concentrating on ensuring that communities have clean water and adequate sanitation.”
Support will include:
- shelter kits with tarpaulins and tool kits containing a hammer, saw, spade, rope, nails and other items to build emergency shelters
- training in how to use the shelter kits and tools
- clean water supplies and hygiene kits to prevent water-borne disease
- essential items such as blankets, jerry cans, and kitchen sets for people living away from home or whose houses were damaged.
So far, the Red Cross has also trained 69 volunteers in another vital part of first aid and emergency recovery – psychosocial support. After disasters, people can be at increased risk of psychological problems. The volunteers will provide emotional and practical support to those who need it and have helped 339 people already.
Preparation paid off
The Fiji Red Cross was prepared to respond to this disaster thanks to relief supplies pre-positioned across the country including blankets, clothes, jerry cans and tarpaulins. Disaster training had also been carried out recently in some communities.
As soon as it was safe after the cyclone, more than 250 staff and volunteers from 15 branches began emergency assessments. Relief supplies were then distributed to over 47,000 people.
The teams have now reached some of the worst affected communities, including remote islands directly in the storm’s path. “We hope that by the end of April we will have reached all of the worst hit families,” Mr. Ledua said.