NATION

‘Colossal’ Recovery Ahead

The rebuild ahead of Fiji is “colossal” with 40 per cent of the country’s children affected by Cyclone Winston, UNICEF’s Alice Clements says. Almost a fortnight after the impact of
05 Mar 2016 10:58
‘Colossal’  Recovery  Ahead
A RNZAF NH90 Helicopter lands in Nasau, Koro Island to deliver personnel, aid, and equipment. The NZDF has deployed to Fiji to provide Humanitarian Aid and Distaster Relief following Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The rebuild ahead of Fiji is “colossal” with 40 per cent of the country’s children affected by Cyclone Winston, UNICEF’s Alice Clements says.

Almost a fortnight after the impact of the Category Five tropical cyclone – the country’s strongest storm in recorded history – the extent of the damage is slowly coming to light.

Ms Clements says the Government has made it clear “no Fijian will be left behind” in the recovery.

“We’re seeing the military getting aid supplies out to the furthest islands.”

It’s estimated 250,000 people are still without safe drinking water and are in need of “urgent assistance”, she says. “A lot of the evacuation centres don’t have power and water.”

She has visited centres where up to 17 people are sheltering in one room, sharing one toilet, which has her particularly concerned for the welfare of children.

“There are risks for children’s physical protection and also their emotional wellbeing in terms of their recovery in these situations.

“Unsafe water can be a killer, especially for young children.”

UNICEF has helped more than 2400 children get back into learning with “pop-up” schools: “Our experience over many years has shown that getting children back into school quickly, even if that school is in a tent, is one of the fastest and most effective ways to keep them safe and help them recover emotionally.

“That’s where you can see long-term impacts for the country if an entire generation of children misses out on too much school that feeds through…

“I can tell you, I’ve seen school tents getting set up and I’ve seen headmasters crying because they are so grateful.”

A focus of the rebuild is to create communities more resilient than before the storm, she says.

“This is the second Category Five cyclone in the South Pacific in less than 12 months. Cyclone Pam was on March 13, 2015.

“Whether we like it or not, we’re seeing directly the impacts of climate change in this situation. A cyclone needs warm water to move across the ocean at that strength. The more warm water there is, the further the cyclone can travel. This was predicted as part of the El Nino forecast, and sadly it’s come true.”

On Thursday, the New Zealand Defence Force’s humanitarian aid operation brought close to 300 additional personnel and 106 more tonnes of emergency relief supplies with the arrival of multi-roles vessel HMNZS Canterbury.

Commander of the task group in Fiji Colonel Glenn King said Canterbury will serve as the maritime base for New Zealand’s post-disaster recovery operations in Fiji:

“We work to the Fiji Government’s priorities and their request to us is to get food, water and shelter to the disaster-struck remote communities in the northern outlying islands.”

The same ship provided aid in Vanuatu last year in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

Colonel King said no end-date for the NZDF deployment to Fiji had been determined at this stage.

 

 

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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