The 2017 National Climate Change Week has been an ideal platform to showcase the service delivery of the Fiji Red Cross Society’s 64 years of existence.

Thanks to the government the FRCS was offered stalls in Labasa, Suva and Lautoka for this all important week where the State and its key stakeholders converge create awareness and advocacy on the phenomenon of Climate Change that has plagued the world today.

Interestingly, this week Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama also assumed his role as the President of the COP 23 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York where he harnessed the need to maintain the momentum in the concerted effort in moving the 2015 Paris Agreement to COP 22 in Marrakesh and on to Bonn, Germany where the COP 23 will be hosted.

The Fiji Red Cross was well represented in the three divisions this past week in Labasa, Suva and Lautoka.

Branch Volunteers and Staff members were actively involved in creating awareness and also with activities like mangrove planting and rubbish picking and clean-up campaigns around Labasa Town, Suva and Lautoka.

Fiji Red Cross Society Programs Manager Dr. Setareki Vatucawaqa has lauded the initiative taken by the government as an opportunity to engage our youth.

“We salute the Government of Fiji in its vision to plan this great awareness week on Climate Change. It is timely and is an opportunity also for our young people to join in and take away learnings that they can foster and nurture into practical strategies for environmental conservation” He said.

Dr. Vatucawaqa says over the years, Fiji Red Cross has worked with government and communities in Fiji in the wake of many disasters to help rehabilitate and rebuild families.

“It seems that over the years, we have experienced great variability in our in our wet and dry weather with prolonged dry and wet spells, Some of the consequences of this variability are due to climatic changes as well as our agricultural and developmental progress which has impacted our environment.”

He says this is seen directly when there is a heavy and prolonged rainfall with or without a natural disaster.

“Towns, suburbs, low-lying coastal and river communities and settlements are subjected to floods, flash floods and landslides with widespread damage and high costs to individuals and the economy.”

The FRCS humanitarian work over the years has taken its 16 Branches to the front lines of such affected places both in business communities and in homes devastated by the effects of floods and landslides.

“We have also seen our fair share of cyclones and perceptions are that they seem to be getting frequent and intensity.” Dr. Vatucawaqa says.

“We recall the days when current baby-boomers usually experienced single cyclones during some cyclonic seasons. It was then startling to note the seemingly increasing frequency of cyclones in one cyclone period as we saw for example in 1985.”

He says this was the year when Fiji experienced four cyclones and storm force winds within three months: “First was TC Eric in January 1985, followed by TC Nigel five days later. In March cyclones Gavin and Hina followed on the heels of the first two.”

“We saw a similar increasing frequency in the 12 months period from Dec 2015 – Dec 2016 when TC Ula (Dec 2015) was followed by TC Winston (Feb 2016), followed by TC Zena (Apr 2016) and the Tropical Depression TD04 in Dec 2016.”

He says that it has also been noted that damage due to these natural disasters has become more widespread and more costly over the years.

“The main example of late is TC Winston.” he said.

“Even we at Fiji Red Cross have been impacted by these devastating and costly natural disasters. We have been challenged as well to lift our performance and our reach to the most vulnerable populations and especially those in the Eastern division.”

As a result of TC Winston, FRCS is now expanding its services and its presence to include the islands of Koro, Lakeba, Vanuabalavu and Kadavu in addition to our existing presence in Levuka and Rotuma in the Eastern division.

“The challenge is therefore on each and every one of us as individuals, as a community, as a government ministry and as an organization, business and corporate body to devise ways and means to better prepare for and mitigating impacts of Climate and Environmental Change.”