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Fiji

Families look to rebuild, in the wake of the cyclone that ravaged Fiji

By Neisau Tuidraki

Families like the Manonos have lost much to the ravages of Tropical Cyclone Winston. See how they are getting along, and how UNICEF and partners are supporting the children of Fiji.

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© UNICEF Pacific/2016/Sokhin
The Manono family sheltered at a local evacuation centre during the storm. The storm took their possessions. Now, they’re among the some 45,000 people sheltering in such centres and looking to rebuild their lives.

BA, Fiji, 3 March 2016 – Asenaca Manono took the warnings seriously. She moved her family to the evacuation centre before Tropical Cyclone Winston hit the town of Ba, joining other families sheltering from the impending storm.

It was pitch black when the winds gathered force.

“One of the first families to get here was on the top floor of the school,” recalls Asenaca. “When the roof blew off, they quickly moved downstairs.”

Shelter after the storm

It’s been two weeks since the cyclone took its destructive path. For the time being, the family will stay at the centre. The morning after the storm, they went to inspect the damage. Their worst fears were realized: The storm had taken all of their possessions.

The Manono family are among the more than 45,000 people sheltering in evacuation centres in the aftermath of the cyclone. This number is expected to rise.

“Right now, there are six families in this one classroom, and we are making do with what we have,” says Asenaca.

Their evacuation centre is one of the few that has running water, which has made the situation more manageable for the large number of families sheltering there.

Tevita

Asenaca’s son Tevita is 16 years old. He uses a wheelchair. When the family moved to the shelter, says Asenaca, “My husband pushed him in his wheelchair down the road in the rain. Luckily we’re just behind the evacuation centre.”

Tevita is sensitive to loud noises and other sensory stimulation. “He’s not good with change,” says Asenaca. “A lot of noise and new things makes him agitated.”

Children’s laughter echoes around the hall of the evacuation centre. The children are pushing Tevita towards his mother after a walk. “They mean well, but I need to keep an eye on him,” she says.

Asenaca takes Tevita out of the wheelchair and lays him on a mat in the middle of the classroom floor, covering him with a thin blanket. He closes his eyes and covers his ears.

Support for families

UNICEF Pacific is working in partnership with the Government of Fiji to respond to the urgent needs of affected children and communities. Within 36 hours of the cyclone hitting Fiji, UNICEF was distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies to those most in need.

The emergency supplies included School-in-a-Box education supplies and tents, to support badly damaged or destroyed schools to resume classes quickly. Supporting children to return to learning is a UNICEF priority in emergencies. School, whether in a classroom or a tent, provides a safe, structured learning environment where children can learn, play, connect with friends and process their experiences. Parents can then focus on recovery efforts and support children’s emotional recovery, after distressing experiences.

Families like the Manonos have lost much, in Ba. Back in the evacuation centre, Asenaca looks at Tevita. “We have nothing,” she says. “We need all the help we can get, something, anything.”


 

 

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