Disaster Recovery Framework: Tropical Cyclone Winston, 20th February 2016

Originally published
View original


Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston, an extremely destructive Category 5 cyclone, struck Fiji on 20th February 2016. It was the first Category 5 cyclone to directly impact Fiji, and the most intense tropical cyclone on record to affect the country. Maximum average wind speeds reached 233km/hour, and wind gusts peaked at around 306km/hour, making Winston one of the most powerful cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.


In addition to the extreme wind speeds, many islands were flooded by storm surges, which, in some cases, inundated areas almost 200 meters inland.The cyclone caused widespread damage and destruction impacting 540,414 people or 62 percent of the total population. Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s population lost power, including the entire island of Vanua Levu. TC Winston caused 44 fatalities and entire communities were destroyed and around 40,000 people required immediate assistance following the cyclone.

30,369 houses, 495 schools, and 88 health clinics and medical facilities were damaged or destroyed. Destruction of crops has compromised the livelihoods of almost 60 percent of Fiji’s population.

Humanitarian Support and Coordination

The Fiji Government successfully led the overall humanitarian response to TC Winston. The government-led efforts were undertaken with strong support from the international community, including the coordination of assistance from foreign governments, UN agencies, the Red Cross, national and international NGOs and the private sector. Immediate emergency efforts were supported with military logistical assistance primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but with support also from France, India, and Indonesia. As of 30 April international donors had pledged assistance valued at approximately $142 million, with approximately 75 percent of this being in kind and 25 percent in cash. Major contributors include Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union, with contributions also from a wide range of other countries and organizations. Private businesses have also contributed approximately $10 million for relief support to victims.

On 4th March the Fiji Government and the United Nations jointly launched an emergency humanitarian “Flash” appeal seeking US$38.6 million for the first three months of the TC Winston response. Needs identified for this appeal included the provision of emergency shelter; access to health, water and sanitation; food and livelihood support; access to education and rehabilitation of schools; and protection and support to vulnerable groups. Approximately 42 per cent of the needs outlined in this appeal have been funded to date through donations totalling more than US$16 million from Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.

The response was coordinated at the national level by nine sector specific Clusters. The Clusters are joint coordination forums with representation from all the agencies involved in that sector. Each Cluster is led by a Government Ministry, with an international agency as Co-lead.

The “Flash Appeal” followed the structure of the Government-led Cluster system, with specific projects submitted and approved by Government leads under each Cluster.

Post Disaster Needs Assessment

A Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), led by Government, was conducted in March/April. Damage and losses as a result of the disaster were estimated at F$ 1.98 billion (PDNA Table 1). Of this, F$1.28 billion is classified as damage (i.e. destroyed physical assets), and F$ 0.70 billion as loss (i.e., changes in the economic flows of the production of goods and services). The combined damage and losses are about 20 percent of Fiji’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015.The PDNA estimated recovery needs at F$1.98 billion, of which F$1.69 billion will be focused on reconstruction, F$218 million will be focused on recovery needs, and F$46 million will be focused on resilience activities (PDNA Table 5). In some sectors, such as agriculture, fully recovery will take many years.

Recovery Defined

For the purposes of this Framework, “recovery” does not mean returning Fiji to how it was just before 20 February 2016. Recovery includes both restoration and enhancement. There will be opportunities during recovery to ‘build back better’ when repairing and reconstructing buildings and infrastructure. These opportunities need to be considered where they lead to increased resilience and/or functionality, or are cost-effective according to life-cycle analysis; provided that they do not come at the expense of the repair or replacement of essential infrastructure and services elsewhere.

Disaster Recovery Framework

Given the scale of the impact of TC Winston it will be several years before production and livelihoods can be restored to pre-cyclone levels. Full recovery,and building greater community resilience, will be a long term effort needing well targeted and sequenced assistance to communities. Recovering and rebuilding from the impact of the strongest cyclone to hit Fiji is Government’s priority.

In recognition of the share of disaster effects between the public and private sectors (PDNA Table 1), government recovery efforts will be focused on restoring public assets and services, providing assistance and support to affected individuals, households and communities to recover from the disaster and to restore livelihoods and economic activities and increasing resilience to future disasters.

This Disaster Recovery Framework (DRF) sets out a Vision and Guiding Principles for medium-term recovery over the next two years (from mid-2016 to mid-2018). In recognition of the long-term nature of recovery and reconstruction, recovery efforts beyond two years will be integrated into Fiji’s National Development Plan. While the programmes and financing presented in this DRF are based the sectoral needs and recovery programmes identified in the PDNA, the figures in this Disaster Recovery Framework are necessarily a sub-set of the overall recovery needs identified in PDNA Table 5.

This DRF will guide the planning and implementation of recovery programmes and projects, providing overall direction to individuals and organizations that have a role in recovery activities including government, the private sector, development partners, civil society and communities. The implementation of the recovery programmes is an opportunity to restore livelihoods, improve lives, upgrade assets, strengthen communities, and lay the foundation for making Fiji more resilient. Recognizing the evolving nature of the recovery effort and the need to revise estimates as new information becomes available and is discussed with implementing agencies and affected people, the detailed recovery Programme will be refined and updated over the coming months.