Cyclone Winston: Women the backbone of Fiji’s disaster recovery

Market vendor Sofia Talei at her farm in Tailevu, Fiji. Her crops were severely damaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston and it will take at least four months to re-grow even the fast-growing plants. “We placed so much expectation on our farm to help us pay for our expenses, including my children's education and medicine. We need to salvage what we can to help us cover our expenses.” Photo: UN Women/Eva Schroeder.

AS the international relief effort in Fiji continues, humanitarian organisation CARE Australia says it is critical international aid targets the specific needs of women and girls.

Charlie Damon, Head of CARE Australia’s emergency response team in Fiji said: “As the international relief effort continues to reach remote communities, it’s critical that specific support is provided for Fiji’s most vulnerable women and girls, including new mothers and those in charge of households.”

“In remote areas of Fiji women and girls are often responsible for collecting water, food and firewood. After a disaster these household chores have to be done in addition to the clean-up. Often this means girls are forced to miss school when it reopens. I saw this happen in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam a year ago.

“Following emergencies, women and girls also remain at risk of life-threatening health and nutrition problems. Many women in the communities we work with will already be worried about crop damage and their community’s long term food supply, and they will be trying to rebuild their gardens to grow food again.

“When distributing relief, we need to ensure we have hygiene kits that support women during menstruation, that reconstructed toilets provide women with protection and privacy, and that food deliveries support the needs of new mothers and babies.”

Ms Damon said it was also vital to recognise the critical role women had played in saving lives when Cyclone Winston struck, and their ongoing role in leading community recovery.

“We need to mobilise the strength of women’s leadership while continuing to provide support, care and protection to the many thousands of women who have lost everything in this devastating disaster,” she said.

Cyclone Winston, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, swept between Fiji’s two main islands on Saturday, bringing devastating winds with gusts of up to 325 kilometres per hour.

CARE has deployed emergency response experts from Australia to support local partners Live & Learn as the response scales up.

CARE Australia is an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities.

To donate to CARE’s Cyclone Winston Emergency Appeal, visit care.org.au/Winston or call 1800 DONATE (1800 020 046).

Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.

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Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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