Oxfam has ramped up its emergency response and is assisting more than 2,250 families from communities in desperate need of access to a safe water supply and toilets, following Tropical Cyclone Winston’s arrival in Fiji.
Cyclone Winston left at least 43 people dead, whole communities destroyed, and 300 schools damaged or wiped out. More than 53,000 people are still sheltering in crowded evacuation centres around the country.
The Fijian Government has identified a list of hot spots to prioritise humanitarian assistance for communities in the worst affected areas, many of which were in the cyclone’s path.
Oxfam in Fiji Country Director Dolores Devesi said many people from communities in these hot spot areas still could not return home.
“With nowhere to live, no access to safe water and no sanitation, many Fijians are stuck in evacuation centres. By working in both communities on the hot spot list and evacuation centres, we are helping people to get home as soon as possible,” Ms Devesi said.
“We’re delivering emergency drinking water and hygiene kits for 2,250 families – which includes bucket, soap, sanitary pads and other toiletries. These items are essential to help prevent the outbreak of waterborne disease and restore dignity.
“We’re working in communities in the provinces of Ra, Tailevu, Ba and Naitasiri to do quick emergency repairs to get the water supplies and toilets back up and running, so people can return to their homes. This involves repairing water pipes, cleaning wells or setting up emergency water filtration units.
“What’s heartening is that despite the disaster, there is a great sense of camaraderie amongst the community, which is bringing normalcy to people’s lives. Locals are rallying together to help one another; today we saw families on the roofs of houses helping each other to patch up damage.”
Oxfam is working closely with local partners and members of the community, training people to operate and maintain water filtration systems.
“In partnership with the community, we’re installing four water filters in Fiji, each with the capacity to produce 10,000 litres of safe water per day. A water and sanitation expert has been deployed from Australia and has installed the first system in Dogoloa Village in Ra province, and we’ve got two more experts on their way to help the community install the remaining systems,” Ms Devesi said.
“Many people in Fiji rely on groundwater from wells, which have been polluted with mud and debris from the flooding, so these water filters are essential to provide clean water for drinking and hand-washing. This is critical to prevent waterborne diseases from spreading.”
Ten Oxfam staff have been deployed to Fiji to assist with the disaster, including humanitarian coordinators, logisticians and water, sanitation and hygiene coordinators.
Oxfam is appealing for funds from the public to help reach communities hit by Tropical Cyclone Winston with vital emergency aid. Donations can be made online at oxfam.org.au or by calling 1800 034 034. Notes to editors: Photos are available.
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