NGO outlines co-ordinated aid approach to Fiji disaster
Care Australia outlines the co-ordinated approach being taken by the Fiji government, donors and NGOs to ensure a co-ordinated approach to helping cyclone Winston victims.
The aid agency Care Australia is readying to help Fijians replant vegetable gardens that were destroyed by Cyclone Winston.
Care Australia is one of a large number of aid agencies working in Fiji since the disaster nearly two weeks ago.
It works along a locally based NGO called Live and Learn Fiji.
Care Australia's head of the emergency response, Charlie Damon, spoke with Don Wiseman about their work.
She says they have been working through the data the Fiji government has collected over the past 11 days and isolated those areas where they can help in a co-ordinated way with other aid donors and NGOs.
CHARLIE DAMON: From the data we have received from them it looks like they have reached areas that have had everything destroyed, they have been reaching out to those. Alongside both the Australian government and the New Zealand government who have all come out with their own assets in terms of planes and ships and so on. The Fiji government has been working alongside those bilateral partners to really get that first wave of aid out. And so we are working alongside UN OCHA and the government of Fiji to check that data, just to see if there are any gaps. At this stage we can't identify anything immediately. Then we are looking at what we can do that is complementary to that. In particular looking at hygiene assistance, we don't want any spread of disease, so looking at what we can do in terms of hygiene kits distribution, doing some training with communities on good hygiene practise and safe sanitation and so on. And then we are also looking at how can we meet their food security needs in the medium to long term - so looking at working with communities in replanting their gardens, providing some agricultural training. They are receiving their first load of food from the government but of course that will run out and so looking and making sure we can help them replant now so they are ready to harvest.
DON WISEMAN: Can we just look at one or two of those things then. Firstly, if we look at sanitation - the quality of water or access to water is going to be the key issue. So are you able to provide them with some means to purify their water - what are you doing?
CD: Yes. So that first load of assistance tha has gone out from the government, they have been distributing clean water, bottled water to communities. And then with Australian and NZ militaries repairing systems. So we will support communities to make sure that is a longer term solution. We know that there has been some damage to pipes and tanks and so on. So our teams are talking to those community members to see what those needs are, matching that up with the government data and then we can then go out next week and the week after to go out and start looking at those systems and repairing them.
DW: In terms of food, you've already started with your local partner, Live and Learn. You're already undertaking planting of gardens?
CD: We are planning it. Because we have to get everything approved by the government. So we have all of our plans in place, partners in place. We then get our plans signed off by the government. And once that is all signed off, we can go ahead and start replanting. We know that the government has been distributing food as part of their assistance, so we are not concerned about those immediate food security needs. But of course we do want to support communities moving forward. So we are getting all those partnerships set off and signed off so we can start that process next week.
DW: An organisation like Care Australia, it's a relatively small NGO isn't it? So how long do you think you will be in a position to maintain a significant presence in Fiji?
CD: Yes so we are working in partnership with Live and Learn who have a longer term presence in Fiji. Live and Learn have been in Fiji since 1999. And we are looking at supporting them through partnership to respond to the needs of affected communities for at least six to 12 months. And should funding allow and should the needs still be there then we would be looking at extending that. We are building a programme based on existing activities that have been happening in the communities. So Live and Learn already had some water and sanitation activities ongoing, already some food security programmes. So building on that existing capacity and just expanding that and strengthening that, and then supporting that so it can be expanded out to communities affected by Cyclone Winston.
DW: And the government is signing off on everything, you've got to go the government for approval for any programme you might do?
CD: Yeah. They want everything to be coordinated and they want to make sure we aren't duplicating efforts. Any aid is being used as efficiently as possible. So we are going through the government and the UN coordination systems just to make sure whatever we are doing isn't a duplication effort. So it's really just a means of maintaining efficiency of the aid within the country's response.
DW: I guess the key thing there is just how long that process takes.
CD: It has been pretty quick so far. We have already received endorsement to be here, to be supporting Live and Learn. And we got that pretty quickly. So we are not anticipating that long. The time really has been able to get that assessment stage. It takes time when a cyclone hits a country, particularly a country made of lots of small islands. And we had the same experience in Vanuatu last year with cyclone Pam. The logistics of gaining that data is quite significant. You are talking about very small island populations, and accessing them, having IT communications to be able to obtain that data can be quite difficult for at least a few days after a cyclone. But now that data is starting to come through we are in a better position to have an informed response and making sure we are targeting our assistance where it is most needed.
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