Supporting our partner in disaster relief in Fiji
August 30, 2016
By Pam, FSO in Fiji
In February this year, Fiji was hit by the strongest cyclone to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. Cyclone Winston caused widespread damage and destruction impacting approximately 540,400 people, equivalent to 62 percent of the country’s total population. In the aftermath of Cyclone Winston it was apparent that entire communities had been destroyed including homes, schools, health clinics and medical facilities, crops and livestock. This destruction affected the livelihoods of almost 60 percent of Fiji’s population.
In Fiji, Good Return are partnered with South Pacific Business Development who are the largest microfinance institute in Fiji. The vast majority of South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) members were seriously affected by the cyclone and immediately after the disaster SPBD set out to assist its members.
Good Return held a fundraising appeal to gather funds to help SPBD assist its members. With the help from supporters, Good Return raised $18,518 which assisted SPBD in distributing relief packs and tool kits immediately after the disaster and refinancing member loans. Along with relief packs SPBD also distributed $50 cash to its members to help them purchase essential items like medicines or baby food.
A few weeks ago, I visited some of the areas greatly affected by Cyclone Winston to speak with the SPBD members about their experiences in the aftermath of the disaster.
One day, I met with a SPBD member Ili and her husband to speak about their experiences. They kindly invited me into their home which had been partly destroyed by the cyclone. Ili explained to me that her farming business was the only source of income for her family. Sadly all of their crops were destroyed from the cyclone; leaving her family without food or income. She explained to me that SPBD gave her immediate assistance after the disaster. They provided her with the emergency relief packs which help her feed her family and the tool kit which assisted her in fixing her home. They also gave her the option to re-finance her loans which she accepted so that she could afford to purchase some new seeds.
Ili has now harvested her first crop of watermelons since the disaster allowing her to continue to generate an income for her family.
She explained to me that her family is still waiting on government assistance, making them very thankful for Ili’s membership with SPBD. Without their assistance Ili and her family would still be dependent on humanitarian relief from international NGOs. Instead they are able to continue to run their business, allowing them to recover quicker.
Ili’s story is just one example of the essential role local actors such as Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) play in the aftermath of a disaster. They can be one of the first to respond when a disaster hits and can sometimes provide interventions which are faster and more appropriate to the context.
Please continue to support Good Return and SPBD in offering their assistance to members affected by Cyclone Winston.