Fiji

Fiji: Regional Ministry to embark on community capacity building

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The Ministry of Regional Development will soon embark on a community capacity building and partnership programme as preparatory measures against future disasters, said Minister for Regional Development, Ilaitia Tuisese.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday (February 17), Mr Tuisese said the programme is a result of the lack of public awareness and poor response to warnings that was a contributing factor to the current death toll and missing people after Cyclone Ami.

Minister Tuisese said poor public response to warnings reflects the need to constantly carry out public education and awareness campaigns.

"The public would be encouraged to participate in simulation exercises on cyclone warnings and response to continuously raise awareness and strengthen the general state of readiness," he said.

Mr Tuisese also said that the National Disaster management Office is ill equipped to deal with major disaster.

"It needs proper resources such as a purpose built centre with the state of the art facilities to effectively deal with disasters," he said.

"Similarly upgrading is required for the various Emergency Operations centres in the country."

Mr Tuisese said Government is mindful of this deficiency and is taking steps to rectify the situation.

The Minister also noted how absence of funds to deal with such emergencies will continue to be an impediment to effective response.

The Government is considering a budget from next year for DISMAC under the Ministry of Regional Development to meet relief, rehabilitation and operational cost for tropical cyclones and other types of natural disasters.

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EMERGENCY RELIEF SUPPLIES NEEDS STRATEGIC LOCATIONS - TUISESE

The emergency relief supplies needs to be pre-positioned in strategic locations around the country, says Minister Regional Development Ilaitia Tuisese.

The comment was made Mr Tuisese whilst presenting a post-mortem report on Cyclone Ami in parliament yesterday (February 17).

Mr Tuisese said that it was necessary to consider the installation of salt-water desalination equipment either in Government vessels or in strategic locations in the island groups.

"The availability of water continues to be a problem and the presence of desalination equipment will be valuable," he said.

The Minister also raised the need for extra air support services during times of natural disasters.

"It is evident from the current operation that the availability of air support is critical for quick deployment of assistance to the affected areas.

"The current emergency relief work is constrained by the fact that only one helicopter from the only company in the country is available to support damage assessment and attend to other urgent tasks including medical evacuation."

Mr. Tuisese said the availability of Government owned air support would provide the impetus or operational efficiency and ensure timely response.

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TELECOMMUNICATION CAPABILITY NEEDS TO BE STENGTHENED

The situation experienced at the height of Cyclone Ami has highlighted the important need to strengthen telecommunications capability in the Northern and Eastern Division, says the Minister for Regional Development, Ilaitia Tuisese.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday (February 17), Mr Tuisese said one of the lessons learnt during the height of the cyclone was the fact that the whole of the Northern Division had no form of communication with the outside world for a few days.

"This had adverse effects on the Government's efforts to deal with the situation, and it also drew strong criticism from several quarters locally and overseas."

Mr Tuisese said there were lessons to be learnt from the experience with one of it being the need to improve the National Emergency operational systems.

"We accept that some improvements can be made to our operational systems and a useful guide to making improvements are some lessons that we have learned from our on-going review during current Cyclone Ami operations."

One of the improvements in particular is the training of key individuals in isolated islands on the important disaster response activity like assessments.

Mr. Tuisese said such training would ensure the early receipt of assessment reports and the quick deployment of relief supplies.

The Minister also noted that a major difficulty faced by the national response efforts was the widespread nature of the disaster, which seriously affected some 70,0000 to 80,000 people on two large and dozens of tiny islands that were dispersed across 300,000 square km of ocean.

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