UNICEF emergency supply plane reaches cyclone-affected Fiji

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Emergency supplies for some 350,000 Fijians, including 120,000 children, affected by Cyclone Winston, were flown in by UNICEF from its global supply hub in Copenhagen, Denmark. © UNICEF

Suva Fiji, 8 March 2016 – Nearly 100 metric tonnes of urgently-needed supplies for affected children and communities arrived in Fiji yesterday as part of UNICEF’s response to Cyclone Winston, one of the World’s strongest-ever storms.

Emergency supplies for the 350,000 Fijians (including 120,000 children) affected by Cyclone Winston were flown in by UNICEF from its global supply hub in Copenhagen, Denmark on 7 March. The Boeing 777 full of life-saving supplies linked to health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child protection provides a big boost to UNICEF’s response, which has already assisted more than 26,000 people whose homes and communities were ripped apart by Winston’s destructive winds.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr Karen Allen joined Fiji’s Minister of Education, the Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services and the Permanent Secretary of Health and Medical Services to welcome the plane at Nadi International Airport yesterday. The supplies will be urgently distributed by the Government to most-affected communities.

“These supplies will allow us to continue our work in partnership with the Government of Fiji and international donors to get assistance to those who need it most,” said Dr Allen.

“This unprecedented disaster for Fiji has affected 40 per cent of Fiji’s population. It’s uprooted children’s lives, taking away homes, schools, water supplies, health facilities, food crops and family livelihoods. Our supplies will help to ensure that affected children and families receive safe drinking water, get back into school, access health care, including adequate nutrition and are supported to stay safe from harm and recover emotionally.”

Following the devastating cyclone which struck the island nation on 20 February, UNICEF has worked with the Government of Fiji to rapidly distribute emergency supplies, including to remote outer islands, many of which are among the worst-affected areas.

Within 36 hours of the cyclone hitting Fiji, affected communities had begun to receive UNICEF emergency supplies. “Thanks to our preparations for an emergency such as this we were able to move very quickly in our response,” said Dr Allen. “But it soon became apparent that we would also need more supplies – the scale of this disaster is truly nationwide, there are far too many children and families who don’t have a roof over their heads or even the most basic of essential services such as clean, safe drinking water.”

“That’s why we have mobilised support from around the world. This huge delivery today complements pre-positioned emergency supplies already received from our Vanuatu office, and more are scheduled to arrive from the Solomon Islands in coming days. We are working around the clock to ensure that those who need help, get it, and get it quickly.”

Supplies on the chartered flight include 8000 water containers, 7480 tarpaulins, 3250 mosquito nets, educational supplies sufficient for 20,000 students, oral rehydration salts for the treatment of diarrhea and dehydration, micronutrient powders to supplement the feeding of underweight children and other essential medical supplies.

Dr Allen stressed that, while these materials will have a significant impact in the response, more funds are urgently needed for additional supplies.

“Forty per cent of Fiji’s population faces very real threats to their safety, health and wellbeing. An immediate and comprehensive response is needed to ensure that these threats are managed and children and communities are supported to recover as quickly as possible.”

“We are grateful to our partners and donors, including the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom who have made significant contributions to our relief and response efforts – but the scale of this emergency demands even greater generosity and support for the people of Fiji. Donations made today will have an immediate impact for those who need it most. We need people to dig deep.”

UNICEF has appealed for US $7.1 million for the needs of Fiji’s affected children and communities, with special attention to especially vulnerable groups and those in hardest-to-reach parts of the country. Funds will be used to respond to urgent needs linked to health, education, water, sanitation, hygiene and child protection.