Six months on from Cyclone Winston in Fiji

It has been six months since Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016. This category 5 cyclone was the worst disaster to hit the country in recorded history. According to the United Nations Organization for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 44 people were killed by the storm, and 40 per cent of the population (350,000 people) were affected. The massive disaster left more than 31,000 houses damaged or destroyed across Fiji.

As Habitat for Humanity has supported programs in Fiji since 1991, work on the disaster response began immediately through its local office in the capital of Suva. A Habitat team began assessing damaged communities, while staff in Suva began coordinating with government agencies and the shelter cluster, a grouping of various humanitarian organizations that coordinate shelter support for those affected by disasters. With assistance from donors and other Habitat offices in the Asia-Pacific region, emergency programs were quickly planned and implemented.

As programs began, contributions and support from donors were key in completing the distribution of shelter-related kits. 737 shelter repair kits, 666 individual family tool kits and 1,335 community tool kits, with each community tool kit used by multiple families, were distributed. 6,483 families, totaling approximately 32,415 people, received support through the emergency phase programs. This surpassed the initial target of 5,000 families, or 25,000 people. Overall 294 communities in 28 districts received aid from Habitat and its local partners.

Shortly after the disaster struck, Habitat Fiji developed a two-year response plan for Tropical Cyclone Winston, involving emergency relief, recovery and rehabilitation phases. The emergency phase has now ended, and recovery and rehabilitation programs are in progress. In the recovery phase, programs include community training for water, sanitation and hygiene, cyclone retrofitting for homes, house repairs, WASH repairs and ‘Build Back Safer’ training. For the rehabilitation phase, programs include construction of new houses and major WASH repairs for communities.

Current programming for the disaster response is planned until September 2017 and may continue beyond, pending the availability of additional funding.

While the situation in the country is slowly improving, the need for safe and permanent shelter remains high. Looking towards the future, Habitat for Humanity will continue its program in Fiji, working towards a world where everyone has a decent place to live.