Friday 22 April 2016

The ongoing humanitarian disaster in Fiji

Fijians feeling hopeless after cyclone

Up to two people in each village in Fiji are in a desperate psychological state, say counsellors helping people recover after Cyclone Winston.
Usenia Nemai and daughters Rusila, 18, and Marie Grace, 5, stand at what used to be the lounge of their two-bedroom home in Driti village.
Usenia Nemai and daughters Rusila, 18, and Marie Grace, 5, stand at what used to be the lounge of their two-bedroom home in Driti village. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

22 April, 2016

They say children are also still suffering trauma two months after the category five storm hit.

Local Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) Empower Pacific has counsellors visiting communities around the country to help with pyschosocial recovery.

Counsellor Salvin Singh said among the 50 to 100 households in each community they had visited, the rate of desperation was high.

"There might be one or two cases in all the villages, I would say, on a very high note of hopelessness," he said.

"They don't know what to do and they might think it's not worth living with all this situation and it might never be improved."

People in high need were referred to health professionals.
Empower Pacific counsellor Salvin Singh
Empower Pacific counsellor Salvin Singh Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The counsellors said anxiety was rife where people had lost their entire source of income.

Cyclone Winston struck Fiji in February, killing dozens and devastating entire villages.

One village the counsellors visited, which makes traditional sasa brooms from coconut leaves, has no cash flow after their coconut trees were ruined.

Another counsellor Kelera Batibasaga said children were still suffering from the trauma of the cyclone, which was the worst to hit Fiji since records began.
"When they try to get back to school, their mind is just blank," she said.

"And the children experiencing that - roof being blown off, things being dragged from one corner to another corner. Those are things the children are still talking about. They forget about school things."
Family shot of 6 family members
Elisapeci Biau, left, is exhausted as Winston left 11 family members living in cramped conditions.Photo: RNZ / Sally Rond

An expert in post-disaster psychosocial care, Holly Griffin, said Fiji's social structure and traditions were helping in the recovery.

She is helping the Fiji Red Cross with the training of counsellors.

Ms Griffin was earlier helping Christchurch people recover psychologically from the earthquakes and she said Fijians were less socially isolated, which was helping the situation.

People understood the importance of talking about what they had experienced, she said.

"They're a really social society. They have really strong communities generally and some really positive coping strategies because of that. They sit together and talk and support each other in ways that in Christchurch sometimes we needed to work on."
Mohammed Nadim shows photos of the house that was destroyed by Winston.
Mohammed Nadim shows photos of the house that was destroyed by Winston. Photo: RNZ/ Sally Round

A remote Fijian village is photographed from the air during a surveillance flight conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force on February 21, 2016. REUTERS/NZ Defence Force/Handout via Reuters
BANGKOK, April 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two months after being struck by a powerful cyclone, Fiji needs urgent assistance to plant crops and rebuild homes, the United Nations said, calling for international support to reduce the risks of food shortages and disease.

Cyclone Winston, the worst storm recorded in the southern hemisphere, hit Fiji in February, killing 43 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

The United Nations said Winston had destroyed crops and more than 31,000 homes, and that flooding in recent weeks had washed away many crops planted after the cyclone.

"As planning begins for longer-term recovery and reconstruction, it is important to emphasize that humanitarian efforts must continue, particularly in locations hit by both the cyclone and subsequent flooding," U.N. resident coordinator Osnat Lubrani said in a statement.

Urgent needs include distribution of agricultural supplies, construction of shelters and toilets, mosquito control and surveillance to stop the spread of disease, and psychosocial support, she said.

"Our work is far from over. There is an acute need for the distribution of more seeds and seedlings to kick-start food production in areas hit by the cyclone and floods. This is vital to reducing the risk of food insecurity over the months ahead."

It is also vital to train people to build stronger, safer houses, she said, noting that "even small donations from the international community can make a huge difference".

Australia said this week it would more than double its post-cyclone emergency aid to Fiji, pledging A$20 million ($16 million) to help it rebuild infrastructure and prepare for future disasters.

The new aid adds to the A$15 million ($12 million) Australia has already given Fiji since the disaster.

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