On the day that the United Nations and the Fiji Government have launched an emergency appeal to help islanders recover from Cyclone Winston, UK-based ShelterBox unveils its biggest response ever to a storm disaster in the South Pacific
With aid already delivered to six outlying islands, over 2,000 ShelterBoxes en route from storage in Australia and Dubai, superyachts and local Rotarians reaching out to the hard-to-reach, and thousands of solar light units on their way to islanders without electricity – Cornwall-based ShelterBox expects its response to Fiji’s cyclone disaster to be one of its biggest Pacific storm mobilisations on record, with resources of over £1 million already committed.
A team from ShelterBox New Zealand and the USA was on the ground as soon as flights resumed after the cyclone struck on 20 and 21 February. The most powerful storm ever recorded to make landfall in the South Pacific, Cyclone Winston left over 40 dead, a path of destruction across hundreds of Fijian islands, an estimated 24,000 houses damaged or destroyed, and life-sustaining food crops flattened.
Since that weekend assessments have confirmed fears of a shortage of clean water, medical supplies and shelter. A state of natural disaster was declared by the Fiji Government, and they put a call out for international aid. Today they have gone a stage further, issuing with the UN a plea for 38.6 million US Dollars to add to the relief efforts already underway. 50,000 people are now thought to be in need of assistance, many of them still without aid, communications and power almost two weeks after the storm.
Prime Minister of Fiji, Voreqe Bainimarama, said at today's launch of the appeal, ‘With our tenacity and the generosity of UN member states, we must work together to meet the unprecedented need that Cyclone Winston has left in its wake. We look to the world to assist Fiji to fully get back on its feet.’
Sune Gudnitz, Head of the United Nations Pacific Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, explained, ‘There is a critical need for the construction of emergency shelter in the worst hit areas with more than 50,000 people temporarily displaced. Hospitals and medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged, and water sources are contaminated. There is a huge demand for debris clearance and a need for the rapid provision of clean water and sanitation services to reduce the spread of disease.’
The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Osnat Lubrani, added, ‘The Fijian Government deserves praise for its strong leadership throughout the early stages of this complex response but with 40 per cent of the population affected there is now an urgent need for international support to fund critical activities over the next three months.’
Shelter, health, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and protection have been identified as urgent needs. ShelterBox, experts in emergency shelter and with a range of aid either already in place or on its way, is working with a range of partners across the islands.
Among them is Sea Mercy, a US agency which uses superyachts and catamarans to deliver aid and medicines to Fijian islands via its base in Port Denerau. They are often able to land craft close inshore or on beaches, to reach families whose properties took the full coastal force of the storm. In recent days they have delivered ShelterBoxes to Makogai Island, Viwa, Bitiki, Kubulau, Taveuni.
ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Phil Duloy says, ‘Everywhere our teams look there are signs of the severity of this storm. There is massive damage to crops, boats, and fishing equipment, so there will be an urgent need for food, as well as seeds and fishing supplies.’
‘The Government of Fiji and humanitarian partners are striving to provide temporary classrooms with water, sanitation and learning materials so that young people can re-start their education and return to some sort of normality. Medical centres and hospitals have also been damaged.’
‘ShelterBox has experience of dealing with this type of emergency response, but this is on a challenging scale: the affected population lives across literally hundreds of inhabited islands. Our teams are hard at work assessing needs and distributing aid to minimise the lasting effects of this massive disaster.’
NOTES TO EDITORS
• An infographic produced by the United Nations on the scale of the disaster is here.
• People can donate to ShelterBox by phone on 0300 0300 500 during business hours, or any time online at www.shelterbox.org