On the 20th and 21st February 2016, Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston swept through Fiji with wind gusts of up to 325 km/hr and left a trail of destruction throughout Fiji affecting 350,000 people. 44 people died as a result of TC Winston and 32,200 houses were damaged. The most severely affected provinces were Ra and Ba in the Western Division. At its peak over 50,000 people stayed in over 1,000 evacuation centres.
Less than 2 months following TC Winston a second tropical cyclone. TC Zena hit the Western Division killing 3 people and causing flooding that further damaged essential services. Agriculture rehabilitation work undertaken in the Northern and Western Divisions following TC Winston was destroyed as a result of the prolonged rainfall and flooding.
TC Winston caused extensive damage to school infrastructure across Fiji, especially in the Western Division of Fiji, with the government reporting a total of 229 schools damaged or destroyed. In response, the government initiated the Adopt a School programme, whereby external organisations could fund the reconstruction of school facilities.
Following TC Winston, New Zealand Red Cross (NZRC) launched an appeal to support Fiji Red Cross Society’ (FRCS) activities in response and recovery. As part of this FRCS proposed a partnership with NZRC in adopting for reconstruction of Vunikavikaloa Arya School.
The project consists of the reconstruction of the classroom block which also houses the school office and the toilet blocks. Four of the teachers quarters will be re-constructed. The team from NZRC are using new technology using a framcad to make the steel frames for the roof.
The Safe School Project aims to support the physical and psychosocial recovery of the Vunikavikaloa Arya School community.
Through the safe school project and as part of building a safe and resilient school and community, FRCS has provided various training eg pre-cyclone briefing, integrated vulnerability capacity assessment and first aid training.
The community is very grateful to be beneficiaries of this Safe School Project, through the Adopt a School programme. Mrs Vasiti Adi Turaga said “we are so grateful and fortunate with the big help that FRCS has provided, because of them my grandchildren will be able to go back to school with good classroom conditions. Mrs Pardip Kaur from the Mothers Social Club share similar sentiments “Thank you FRCS for your assistance that enabled me to understand and learn more about disaster management and also for helping the teachers, students and parents”.
The Safe School project will also strengthen the Nalawa Branch of the Fiji Red Cross Society.