Claire Garmirian 203.309.8545 (M)
Negin Janati 203.212.0044 (M)
Washington, D.C. (February 20, 2015) —Save the Children is bracing for the worst and a keeping focus on children’s wellbeing as the scale of devastation emerges following the most powerful cyclone ever to hit Fiji.
One death has been confirmed so far, and thousands of homes are likely to have been destroyed. Cyclone Winston packed winds of up to 202 miles per hour, snapping tree trunks in half, damaging key infrastructure and bending metal power poles.
"I’ve never experienced anything like this. The noise was frightening as roofs were blown off homes and trees were ripped out by their roots," said Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-McKenzie.
"I’m especially concerned about the remote communities in outlying areas that we haven’t been able to contact yet. Until communications are re-established and we can assess the damage, we won’t know the full extent of situation.
"What we do know is that this mega storm will have had a massive impact on children, and their needs and wellbeing will be among the highest priorities in the coming days and weeks."
Save the Children has teams standing by to assess the damage once the curfew lifts, and teachers ready to support children at set up child-friendly spaces in evacuation centers. The organization will operate special playgroups for children staying in some of the 700-plus evacuation centers across the country. The ‘child-friendly space’ provides children with a safe and fun place to spend time while giving parents the much needed opportunity to assess the damage.
Meanwhile, aid workers from Save the Children globally are gearing up to deploy to the worst-affected areas. The aid agency has launched an urgent appeal for funds to help reach thousands of children through education and child protection activities.
"The situation in Fiji is critical, and will be for some time. The island nation has never been hit by a storm like this before, and will need a lot of help to recover," Ms. Low-McKenzie said."Right now it's important that the international community unites behind Fiji, and urgently helps fund the emergency response."
Save the Children has stockpiled emergency supplies to ensure children return to school as soon as possible. This includes school bags, classroom kits and child friendly spaces kits for evacuation centers if schools are damaged.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.