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  • B.M. Allsopp

FIJI - 12 months on from Cyclone Winston

I won't talk about books today. Instead, my topic is a 4-page A-4 full colour Red Cross newsletter the postman just delivered.

Why review a Red Cross brochure?

Just a year ago the most devastating cyclone in Fiji's history battered many areas, wiping out power, communications, water supplies and even crops. In the worst affected remote islands, Winston destroyed every village home. Like other Australians who treasure Fiji memories, I responded to the Australian Red Cross Fiji Appeal, followed the news and contacted my Fiji friends to check on their safety. Then I hoped for the best, I have to admit.

Rebuilding with Fiji Red Cross

My Red Cross newsletter details the progress of disaster relief and rebuilding work in Fiji over the past 12 months. I can't find this document online, but you can read more here or perhaps you're better at finding things on the internet than me.

Villages on Koro Island (left), a forested mountainous gem, were almost wiped out. First, Fiji Red Cross distributed tarpaulins, cooking pots, soap, candles, solar lanterns, tools and more to each family. In the next phase, specialists trained the islanders in building techniques that will make their new homes more resilient to cyclones. Health teams have educated people to avoid water-borne diseases like typhoid and leptospirosis. They have also seen and addressed psychological trauma. "Our people are normally up and about after disasters, cleaning up. But this time I could see people in each village just sitting there, numb," reported Marica Kepa of Fiji Red Cross. The teams will continue to visit Koro and other communities.

When aid is no help at all

Just after Cyclone Winston, my Sydney local newspaper publicised well-meaning drives for used clothes and kitchen gear to be sent to Fiji. Peter Walton of Australian Red Cross explains here why such humane impulses don't help anyone after a disaster and can even do harm. (Fiji doesn't need the shirt off your back.)

What about local business?

In towns, business premises and warehouses are often destroyed in natural disasters and need to rebuild too. However, surviving traders can suffer when relief organisations import and distribute tons of goods freely. Red Cross are working with Pacific businesses who could supply emergency materials quickly when disaster strikes.

Today I was cheered to learn of this immensely sensible, well-planned and successful work. What was destroyed in a day takes years to rebuild, but Fiji is well on the way after 12 months. Thank you, Red Cross and other organisations and individuals lending a hand!

What can you do?

Fiji's main export earner is tourism, which always takes an economic hammering following cyclones, even on islands spared the storm. What better way to help Fiji recover than to go there for a holiday? Here's a link to the official website of Tourism Fiji.

But you might have a better idea - let's hear it!

until next post,


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