Disaster preparedness campaign launched

A ‘Get Ready Disasters Happen’ campaign has been jointly launched by the Ministry for Health, Ministry for Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and UNICEF to inform and encourage people for disaster preparedness.

The Ministry of Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management permanent secretary, Filipe Alifereti said the objective of the Get Ready Disasters Happen campaign is to promote key messages in order to strengthen communication with families and at the community level in support of disaster preparedness and response.

“The multimedia communication package for keeping families and children safe and healthy in emergencies consists of materials for print, audio-visual and internet that can easily be used by families for emergency preparedness and response,” Mr Alifereti said.

Mr Alifereti said that as Fiji is a natural disaster prone country, the campaign would also ensure families’ safety and their health status is maintained during disasters.

“There have been 36 recorded natural disasters in Fiji since 1980 with 221 fatalities and over $1billion of damage to Fiji’s economy. Last year’s floods in January and March and Tropical Cyclone Evan in December last year is still fresh in our minds.

“The key to effective disaster management is preparedness. Disaster preparedness is everyone’s business. Disasters such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones, volcanic eruptions and also tsunamis, when they come, cannot be denied but we can be prepared as it helps to minimise the impact of these disasters,” Mr Alifereti added.

The campaign package consists of ten key messages that look at health, sanitation, protection and education issues.

The Minister for Health, Dr Neil Sharma said that multi-micronutrient powders will also be distributed to children under the age of five in selected areas as part of the ministry’s National Iron and Multivitamin Supplementation Program, which was launched in 2009.

Dr Sharma said this program is aimed at reducing the high incidence of anaemia in the vulnerable sections of the community.

“We saw that there was a progressive increase of anaemia in young children and in pregnant women and they needed to be treated. We have reviewed the iron fortification of flour and additionally with zinc and folic acid,” Dr Sharma said.

He added that anaemia is also caused by worm infestation when children tend to run bare feet.

“We know that deficiencies of this nature adversely affects growth and development of individuals and as a result our national development and our potential to be fully functional and operational individuals.”

The multi-micronutrient powder will help reduce the vulnerability of children to micronutrient deficiencies during emergencies when food supplies and healthy foods are scarce.

A training of trainers is also scheduled as part of the campaign in early May to inform members of the communities about disaster preparedness.