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Standing ready when disaster strikes

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Australia is working with the Fiji National Disaster Management Office, Red Cross, the Fiji Council of Churches and other local humanitarian and development partners to help local communities save lives and bounce back from disasters.

Floods and cyclones are a regular occurrence in Fiji. They take lives, shatter communities, inflict economic losses and erode development gains. Since 2009, Fiji has reported over $100 million (F$200m) in damage as a direct result of natural disasters.

Australia is actively helping Fiji better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

Since the January 2009 floods, Australia has provided an estimated $6.2 million to Fiji for disaster response and recovery. This has supported the rapid distribution of emergency supplies such as tarpaulins, blankets and water containers to affected communities. It also funded essential repairs to damaged health centres and schools and supported farmers to plant new crops and protect farms.

Australia also assisted following the most recent severe flooding in Northern and Western parts of Fiji.

Australia, with the Fiji National Disaster Management Office and the Fiji Council of Churches, has helped more than 140 vulnerable communities develop their own disaster response plans and community disaster management committees. These committees inform people about what to do when disaster strikes.

Disaster response plans instruct people on how to safely store food and drinking water, brace their homes and move animals to higher ground. Committee members also advise people when and how to evacuate to village halls, churches or schools in a safe location. This is what saves lives and protects assets when disaster strikes.

'I am happy that this training has come to our village,' said an elderly woman from Gunu village, Yasawa. 'I am 86-years-old and cannot walk. After this training I am the first to be assisted. The youth help me pack and move me to the evacuation centre. The men secure my house. I am thankful.'

Each community has a disaster response plan unique to its own needs. The plans for Yavusania settlement in Nadi and Wasavulu village in Labasa, for example, are for flood responses, as these villages are near major rivers. Plans for the coastal villages of Nakoronawa, Nakaugasele, Lomanikoro and Nakaunakoror in Kadavu focus on tsunami early warning and evacuation.

Australia's assistance has also helped to improve communication between villages and the Fiji National Disaster Management Office. The four villages of Nakasaleka District in Kadavu relayed information to the disaster office on the path and damage of Cyclone Tomas in March 2010. This meant the disaster office had accurate information about conditions and needs on the ground, so they could quickly provide the right type of assistance for immediate relief.

Australia is always ready to help Fiji following a natural disaster. Even more importantly, we will keep working with Fiji to create a widespread community-based response system to save lives and minimise economic losses every time a disaster strikes.