Six months after Cyclone Yasa tore through Fiji, leaving thousands of people homeless, essential movement restrictions to contain the dangerous spread of COVID-19 have delayed recovery efforts.
Restrictions, while necessary to contain the spread of the virus, have prevented Red Cross from moving crucial items such as water tanks and construction materials to hard-hit communities on the island of Vanua Levu which is closed to travel. Thousands of people are stuck in temporary shelters without safe drinking water and hygiene requirements to stop the spread of the virus.
Prior to the movement restrictions, Red Cross supported nearly 12,000 people with emergency relief, including food packs, kitchen sets and tools to start rebuilding, but longer-term assistance is needed to help the communities rebuild and recover.
Fiji Red Cross Director General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said, “We understand and support the importance of movement restrictions around Fiji to contain further spread of COVID-19, yet this virus has struck a double blow for those who were severely affected by the cyclone as it is almost impossible to transport relief items across to Vanua Levu. We made significant progress supporting communities as they started rebuilding in the first three months of the year, however, there is still much more that needs to be done to help people rebuild their homes, make sure there’s clean drinking water so communities can thrive again.”
Fiji Red Cross volunteers and relief teams have provided around 15,000 relief items such as tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, blankets, mosquito nets and water containers to affected families in the worst affected areas on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s largest island.
Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood said, “It’s critical that we continue to provide support for people who are rebuilding after having their homes torn apart, as families are managing the hardships caused by this pandemic on top of a devastating cyclone. We’re ready to provide further cash assistance for 500 families to help them recover as soon as movement restrictions are eased, while keeping everyone safe during this challenging times. When the movement restrictions are eased, we stand ready to continue our recovery efforts.”
Supporting people to rebuild their homes and building water tanks remains a priority for Red Cross teams. As soon as relief activities are allowed to resume, Red Cross will be supporting more than 1,000 families with shelter support kits and building 143 water tanks for communities in Lekutu and Dreketi.
Supplies are short and around 1,500 families will also be supported with hygiene kits which includes soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, family kits with clothing and bedsheets, disability kits and baby kits which includes diapers, baby wipes and napkins.