On 20 February 2016, the Pacific island nation of Fiji was struck by cyclone Winston, the most devastating tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere, taking 43 lives and leaving a trail of destruction that directly affected 350,000 people, 40 per cent of the islands population. With wind gusts up to 325km/h and waves up to 12 meters high, the Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone blew off roofs, brought down trees and power lines, destroyed crops.
As part of its rapid response to food security, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided immediate assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and its offices in the Western Division, where 63% of housings had been damaged and the entire crops destroyed. Urgently reallocating USD 130,000 (FJD 280,000) from ongoing projects, UNDP aims to support the Ministry’s efforts to respond to the needs of the farming communities that have been severely affected.
“At this time of emergency, it is crucial to help those who themselves are essential aides in the humanitarian response, so they can in turn assist those communities affected by the storm”, said Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.
Traveling with a team from the Ministry of Agriculture and UNDP in a convoy of pick-up trucks to deliver equipment and assistance, Akiko Fujii, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, said “the level of destruction we witnessed is staggering. A disaster of this magnitude, the ferocity of the cyclone and the level of destruction has not been experienced by Fiji in recent history.”
In Daiwasamu, in the Tailavu province, the winds blew away both the office and the staff quarters. Josivini Rosana, an Agriculture assistance, says that “the office was completely destroyed. The seeds and the tools we use to support the 524 farmers in the district were gone, blown away.” Before adding “I also lost everything when my house was flattened: the bed, the kitchen equipment, even the school uniforms for my children were blown away or destroyed.”
In Dobuilevu, the quarters housing 12 staff and their families were also severely damaged, and the office now provides shelter to the police post after it too was destroyed.
In the coastal area of Nakorotubu, the waves destroyed most houses and structures in 27 villages, washing away the tools used by farmers to tend their crops.
UNDP provided the Ministry of Agriculture with office equipment for the 14 offices and stations destroyed in the Ra, Naitasiri and Tailevu provinces, such as computers, printers, tents, generators and fuel. It also delivered relief package containing dry clothing, kitchen equipment, bedding or food for the Ministry’s staff who lost everything.
“By providing this equipment to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Extension Offices, we want to support those better placed to assist the farming communities and respond to their immediate needs while paving the way to a longer term recovery”, said Akiko Fujii, handing over equipment to the Ministry office in Rakiraki, in the Ra province. “We also want to show our solidarity to those badly affected by providing some relief materials, as they are essential to the response that needs to be delivered to the farming community”, she said, adding that the UNDP staff themselves and their families also complemented the efforts of the organization to contribute to the relief efforts.
UNDP made available seedlings to the Ministry of Agriculture’s local offices, which will in turn distribute them to the farmers, as all stocks available in the country are almost completely depleted. “These seedlings are vital to help restart the agriculture production, as both crops and stocks have been destroyed”, Ms. Fujii added.
A further USD 50,000 worth of material for clearing debris, such as chainsaw, brush cutters or shovels, have been procured by UNDP and will be delivered to the Ministry of Agriculture, which will make it available to the communities in need.
For more information, or media interviews please contact:
Emily Moli, UNDP Knowledge Communications Analyst, tel: (679) 3227 504; email:firstname.lastname@example.org