Author: Yo Kunieda
Suva –Fiji launched its annual National Disaster Awareness Campaign focusing on better community preparedness as the country continues to strengthen its disaster risk governance. The campaign – set to last until April 2021- is focused at the local level, aiming to make communities better aware of and prepared for futures disasters.
Mr. Inia Seruiratu, the Minister for Rural Maritime Development and Disaster Management, said at the launch: “This marks the start of our considered push to reinforce lifesaving messages that can save lives when disasters strike. It saves properties, it saves businesses”. “A well-informed Fijian public will be well prepared, and ready to respond. That is why this campaign is all about getting people information they need; before, during and after disasters.” He urged the media and NGOs, in particular, to partner with the government to enhance the impact of the campaign.
Mr. Seruiratu added that climate change continues to intensify, citing record breaking past disasters caused by natural hazards, noting that “No community on earth is immune from disasters.”
The launch of the National Disaster Awareness Campaign comes after last week’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, around the theme ‘It’s All About Governance’.
Fiji has long taken a leading role on the regional and global stage, calling for the prevention and reduction of disaster and climate risks. This year, Fiji has had to contend with consecutive and compound disasters, including Tropical Cyclone Harold, floods, landslides and, of course, the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Director of the Fiji National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Ms. Vasiti Soko, unveiled two new initiatives at the campaign’s launch. The first, was the ‘Find my EC (Evacuation Centre)’ mobile app, which helps people to identify their nearest evacuation centres via Viber, Facebook messenger or SMS functions. Previously, residents needed to download Excel files to find such information. The app will now provide it at the touch of a screen, providing immediate life-saving information.
The second initiative was the release of a series of stories, posters and videos, which profile community resilience and demonstrate the importance of preparedness. One video outlined standards and tips to build a safer house, while another video documented the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold, in particular how one person living with a disability coped with the disaster. The materials are all available in the country’s three main languages: Fijian, Hindi, and English.
Mr. Andrew McElroy, Head of UNDRR Pacific Sub-regional Office, saluted the Government of Fiji’s consistent efforts to strengthen governance, as shown by the recent launch of its National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy 2018-2030 and its ongoing review of the Natural Disaster Management Act of 1998.
“Governance is a fundamental issue for effective disaster risk reduction. Indeed, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction has stronger governance as its second of four priorities,” Mr. McElroy said.
In particular, Mr. McElroy praised Fiji’s adoption of a multi-hazard approach and for fully embracing the need to mainstream disaster risk reduction into all-sector planning.
Fiji’s National Disaster Awareness Week starts on 21 October in the province of Ba, one of the country’s flood hotspots. A packed programme will include such events as a tsunami evacuation drill, clean-up campaign, and a national competition to develop disaster awareness communication material.
The launch coincides with the very beginning of Fiji’s annual cyclone season which runs from October to April.
A video recording of the launch event can be accessed here
A video recording of the interview of Breakfast at Fiji One can be accessed here