Our team on the ground has now completed the last stages of operations with the distribution of shelter repair kits to the second group of villages and the monitoring of the build in the first set of villages that had already received the kits.
Operations have been hampered by electricity cuts and heavy rains with the threat of Cyclone Zena on the horizon which, only at the last minute, shifted trajectory to avoid a direct hit on Fiji. A further scare was the warning of an imminent Tsunami on 3 April. Poor Craig spent the evening during a power cut emailing the team’s very extensive contact list as well as phoning or texting all key contacts in the villages. Only when he had finished did he received a message that the 6.9 magnitude earthquake, which had taken place near Vanuatu, was no longer a threat to Fiji.
A further problem has been the epidemic of “red eye”, a very contagious and debilitating form of conjunctivitis, with over 1600 cases reported in Suva alone. Several aid workers and volunteers were affected. This included Ruddy Drummond, the British High Commissioner, who would otherwise have joined the team as a volunteer to distribute kits; he literally had to cry off !
However, despite these problems, most of the remaining kits have been distributed successfully. The remaining villages were further afield and had received less or no support so the deliveries were met with a rapturous welcome.
The monitoring visits were also able to show that the kits had been put to good use. In one village, there was concern that the carpenters were not using metal securing straps as recommended by the “Build Back Safer” guidelines. While the carpenters gave assurances that these straps would be incorporated later, arrangements have been made with volunteers working with All Hands to make a return visit to check that this happens given that the team would not have had time to do this before they left.
Disaster Aid International specialises in providing shelter, water filtration systems and non-food items. However, it also has, as part of the coordinated aid effort, a responsibility to identify other gaps in provision and report back to the relevant cluster group. Thus it was that, in coordination with the Water and Sanitation Cluster group, the team also obtained and distributed latrine repair kits. Similarly, in two villages it emerged that the District Nurse stations had not received any supplies and were therefore out of stock in basic items such as antiseptic cream and bandages. This was reported to Rotary Fiji who were distributing first aid kits.
The formal deployment for Disaster Aid International is now over with Craig, the last member of the team, departing on 7 April. Our operational model does not involve our teams incurring additional costs through extended visits. However, there is always extensive although less intensive work still to be done to ensure that all that was promised has been delivered, to top up where appropriate and to monitor the results. This is why an important part of our operational model is to develop strong local partnerships during the deployment. Such partnerships are critical for the local knowledge and expertise which help to ensure the appropriateness of our work, but also to allow any planned deployment to be completed rather than curtailed by time factors.
In Fiji, the team developed a very productive partnership on the ground with All Hands which, among other things, were providing carpenters to support the rebuild. Helping Hands have agreed to monitor the rebuild in villages that we have supported and specifically to check that carpenters are following the “ Build Back Safer” guidelines.
However, our major partnership in Fiji has been with Fiji Rotary. Fiji Rotary were active from the start of the disaster with the distribution of emergency food and first aid kits. Their first hand knowledge of the situation together with their infrastructure and extensive networks made a very significant input into the planning and implementation of our deployment in Fiji. As a result of this successful relationship, Fiji Rotary agreed to become our formal in- country partner and will continue the work after the teams departure. Most urgently will be the distribution of the remaining 100 shelter repair kits that were held up by the delay of imported roofing material and the bad weather that had made some roads impassable. They also plan to extend our work with additional shelter and latrine repair kits funded from their own sources.
While the formal review of our deployment is still to take place, it is clear that this deployment has been particularly effective despite several significant obstacles. It is also clear that Fiji Rotary have paid an important role in this success. Disaster Aid International would therefore like to take this opportunity to formally thank Fiji Rotary, from the senior officers to the more junior volunteers, for their tremendous input.
Accordingly, through our partnership with Fiji Rotary, work is still ongoing in Fiji and additional funds can still be used to great effect. If you would like to support our continued work in Fiji, please consider making a donation.