UNICEF supporting Government of Fiji’s efforts to reach children in worst affected areas, following Cyclone Winston


UNICEF supporting Government of Fiji’s efforts to reach children in worst affected areas, following Cyclone Winston

On 25 February 2016,  Adi (13) and her 4-year-old brother Waisake, outside their home destroyed by destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Winston in  Yaqeta village, Yasawa island group.  Add says: "I was with my family in a house. Then I saw our house starting to collapse. I grabbed my brother Waisake and we run. I was so scared. We run from house to house three times. Now I am heartbroken to see the house where I was born and raised in, in pieces".

Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Saturday 20 February 2016, continuing its path of destruction into Sunday 21 February. A state of natural disaster and a nationwide curfew had been declared by the Government of Fiji earlier in the evening. In the wake of Cyclone Winston, UNICEF's main concern is for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers across Fiji. Little is yet known about the status of communities living on the outer islands of Fiji that were directly under the eye of Tropical Cyclone Winston- as communications remain down for many. The Fijian Government is rapidly working to assess the overall situation in order to pinpoint the critical needs. The Fijian Government has declared a state of natural disaster for the next 30 days and has initiated the clean-up process by clearing the huge amounts of debris scattered everywhere. UNICEF staff members are standing by to assist as required.

© UNICEF/UN011362/Sokhin – On 25 February 2016, Adi and her 4-year-old brother Waisake, outside their home destroyed by destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Winston in Yaqeta village, Yasawa island group.

SUVA/ HONG KONG, 25 February 2016 – As the full picture of the worst cyclone ever to hit Fiji becomes more apparent, UNICEF Pacific estimates that up to 120,000 children across the county may be worst affected.

UNICEF Pacific’s Joseph Hing, travelled with the first shipment of emergency supplies to Koro Island, one of the areas worst affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston. “The damage to Koro Island is extensive and the scale of the destruction is overwhelming,” he said. “I spoke to countless people who have lost everything. Their lives have been turned utterly upside down.

“I spoke to a grandmother, whose young grandson was nearly swept away by the storm surge. She told me ‘you can lose all your material belongings but what’s more important is our lives’.”

UNICEF is continuing to work in close partnership with the Government of Fiji and other partners in order to ensure a coordinated and strategic emergency response. The geographic make-up of Fiji and the logistical challenges involved in completing assessments of the outer islands, which consist of some of the most affected areas, pose many barriers, but each day brings more progress.

UNICEF is providing an initial response using prepositioned supplies that have been requested by the Government of Fiji.  Funding is needed to sustain and scale up this response.  Within the first 24 hours of the request of the Government for assistance, UNICEF has taken the following actions:

  • 3,000 people in the worst affected areas have been provided with WASH supplies to ensure safe drinking water.
  • 995 students of eight schools in the Lau and Lomaiviti groups provided with education supplies, including temporary learning spaces and learning materials.
  • Hygiene kits for 7,920 people and water purification tabs for 1,066 household were donated to UNICEF the Australian Government as part of an Australian Defence Force (ADF) airlift.
  • Six Emergency health kits, to service a population of 1,000 people for 3 months, as well as tents and education supplies funded by the New Zealand Government have been provided for immediate distribution to worst affected outer islands.

On Wednesday night, health supplies which included vitamin A capsules, oral rehydration salts, zinc tablets and six basic health kits were loaded onto boats departing for Gau Island and Batiki Island. Partially funded by New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the supplies will be used to prevent infection and illnesses especially in women and children.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Karen Allen, said: “The Government of Fiji is leading this emergency response and must be commended for their ability to act swiftly in ensuring the coordination of emergency efforts in response to a disaster of this magnitude.  Children are often the most vulnerable during emergencies and UNICEF continues to support the Government of Fiji’s efforts in addressing the needs of children. The trauma of the event itself must not be underestimated and many will have suffered greatly. As the days go on, children are working alongside their families and communities to pick up the pieces of the lives they once knew.

“Many children have been affected by varying degrees of loss; the devastation of losing family or community members, the sadness of losing homes or belongings, and the danger of losing places of critical importance to the their development, such as schools and health centres.

“For children in particular, there are many dangers at play in a post emergency situation. The Fiji Government has for instance, stressed the critical need for access to clean and safe drinking water as one of the key priorities as part of this emergency response, especially for children which UNICEF strongly supports. Much of the water supply has been affected due to storm damage and there is there is increasing levels of stagnant water that are a breeding ground for diseases like diarrhea.”

Ms Allen added: “More heartening though are the stories we are hearing of heroism and the very best of humanity. Fijians are renowned for the kindness and generosity and we are seeing nothing but solidarity and shared commitment to recover together.”