Disaster preparation support to Fiji
New Zealand and Fiji have a history of support and cooperation in times of natural disaster. It was in this spirit that New Zealand Acting Head of Mission in Fiji, Mark Ramsden, spoke as a chief guest at National Disaster Awareness Week, 7-13 October.
The theme for this year’s National Disaster Awareness Week was ‘Living with disability and disaster’, recognising that people with disabilities who experience challenges in non-disaster situations are often further disadvantaged during a disaster. It acknowledged that people with disabilities need to be actively and inclusively involved, and their needs considered, in disaster preparedness and planning.
Mr Ramsden commended this focus. “The theme is timely and well considered, increasing awareness and understanding of the particular needs of people with disabilities during a disaster event.”
Fiji is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, and in recent years these have caused significant damage. For example at the height of Tropical Cyclone Evan last year, over 14,000 people were sheltered in evacuation centres. A post-disaster needs assessment has estimated that Cyclone Evan caused $82 million of damage to existing assets, with a further $50 million in loses to the economy over the short to medium term. The New Zealand Aid Programme in Fiji has a strong focus on supporting disaster risk reduction and response.
“During the very challenging 2012 year, which saw two floods and one tropical cyclone, New Zealand provided immediate disaster response and early recovery support to Fiji. This support included the delivery of emergency supplies to the National Disaster Management Office, assistance for emergency repairs to homes and water supplies for affected communities, and assistance to get children back into schools.
“We also recognised the need to increase the disaster preparedness and response component of the aid programme in Fiji, and committed $4.5 million for this purpose. This funding, which was announced following the disaster events in 2012, is now assisting the people of Fiji to better prepare for, and respond to, natural disasters.
“Disaster preparedness and response programmes actively involve the community to find local solutions, which is vital for effective disaster management. It means an increased percentage of the population will be better equipped to deal with natural disasters,” said Mr Ramsden.
The New Zealand Aid Programme works closely with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in a variety of areas, including increasing public awareness, training disaster response officials, and creating a strong disaster response system through infrastructure development.
New Zealand is providing funding to the NDMO of $1 million over a period of three years. The first year has focused on training, publications, awareness raising, upgrading the National and Divisional Emergency Operational Centres, and replenishing NDMO prepositioned supplies.