26 Feb 2016

Fiji disaster affecting thousands of children

1:58 pm on 26 February 2016
Children on muddy roads at Lovu.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The tens of thousands of children in Fiji affected by Cyclone Winston must receive the right psychosocial support, says the aid agency UNICEF.

The Fijian government said about five percent of the population is now in evacuation centres following Cyclone Winston.

A spokesperson for UNICEF in Fiji, Alice Clements, said a natural disaster places enormous stress on children.

"For a child who has experienced this inadequate standard of accommodation where their house has been literally pulled apart around them and they have had to run to seek shelter somewhere else. This is an enormously distressing situation."

"We have seen children who have just stopped speaking, we have seen children who are withdrawing emotionally. Often when a child is under a huge amount of stress they revert to the behaviours of a younger child."

Schools to re-open

Schools in Fiji that were not severely damaged during Cyclone Winston are to re-open next Monday.

The National Disaster Management minister Inia Seruiratu made the announcement amid confusion over the resumption date.

The Fiji Times reports Mr Seruiratu saying the government wants education to resume as quickly as possible.

He said however they are concerned with schools that are still being used as evacuation centres.

Mr Seruiratu said these schools will need to be cleaned before classes resumed.

He also said temporary shelters would be erected to house students if their schools have suffered major damage.

The two weeks holiday at the end of this term will be reduced to one week to cater for the time lost over the past five days.

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