Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Cyclone Winston: ensuring safe shelter for children

With more than 120,000 people in urgent need of shelter assistance after the worst cyclone in Fiji’s history, ensuring children and families have safe and adequate shelter is the top priority of emergency relief efforts being undertaken by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with ChildFund Australia.

Temporary evacuation centres are now reaching capacity, and there are fears that the scale of the disaster could increase rapidly, as power and communications to many remote islands remains cut off. More than 40 people have lost their lives, with fears that figure could increase.

Kamal, a resident of Tavua, a town on the main island of Vitu Levu, said: “The cyclone  was my worst nightmare, it destroyed everything I owned. Our whole house was blown away. Please, we need shelter as my family has nowhere to stay. We don’t know what to do or how to start again.”

ChildFund’s relief and recovery effort is focused on families with vulnerable children. In the immediate term, this includes distribution by Habitat for Humanity of temporary shelter kits, which contain tarpaulins, roofing materials, access to toolkits and training on how to utilise the materials.

In addition, access to safe sources of water is critical, to ensure no additional loss of life, particularly among young children. Many existing water sources have been damaged or contaminated by the impact of the cyclone. ChildFund and Habitat for Humanity are providing household water filtration kits and will be conducting hygiene promotion among families.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “Right now, we must ensure that children are safely accommodated. While the cyclone has passed, its catastrophic consequences mean many children remain at risk. Providing a roof over their heads and access to safe drinking water are critical.”

Over the medium term, ChildFund will support Habitat for Humanity’s reconstruction efforts, as it is expected that thousands of family homes will need to be demolished and rebuilt entirely.

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