30,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by tropical cyclone winston in 2016, representing the greatest loss to fiji’s housing stock by a single event.
Shelter Cluster assessments, following TC Winston, indicated that much of the housing damage was experienced by low-income households and came from the limited use of appropriate structural design principles. Reasons for this include lack of access to appropriate building technologies, materials and skills, compounded with the complex logistics required to transport materials and tools to affected island communities. Furthermore, the National Building Code (which requires structures to withstand the design wind speeds of a Cat 3 storm) is not enforced in rural and informal communities, nor does it represent affordable or localised construction methods. These factors restricting the disaster responses of the Shelter sector and community resilience, disproportionately affect remote and island communities.
To tackle these issues, Habitat for Humanity Fiji began the four-year ‘Stand Strong’ project in 2018 to improve the level of resilience of Fijian communities to disasters through improved shelter conditions. Funded through New Zealand’s Partnership for International Development Fund and supported by Habitat for Humanity New Zealand, the research component of the project aims to outline the current best practise for supporting remote communities in Fiji in reconstruction and construction efforts.
“The problem is you and the solution is you, we are the difficulty and solution itself” – Mr Kauata, Itumuta, Rotuma discussing the challenges to rebuilding homes post-disaster
This publication highlights, not only the challenges that remote communities face in all stages of construction, but more importantly to shine a light on the existing capacities and locally-identified solutions to these challenges. By giving priority to the community voice, Habitat for Humanity hopes to frame the recommendations for shelter support initiatives in a way that reinforces existing community capacity. This community-centred approach allows the shelter sector to analyse assumptions and biases to ultimately promote sustainable community resilience with appropriate, affordable and accessible shelter support.