Loved ones reconnected after TC Yasa

Less than 48 hours after TC Yasa unlashed its devastation on northern Fiji, a small, two-person team,  consisting of the focal point for the restoring family links (RFL) programme of the Fiji Red Cross Society (FRCS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Protection Coordinator set  out from Suva for the most affected areas of Vanua Levu. Their aim was to restore contact between  families that were lost, as mobile networks went down due to the destruction of transmission  towers.  

Joseva Ravula, our FRCS focal point reconnecting loved ones.

“We had set up a hotline at the Fiji Red Cross, where people who did not manage to contact their  loved ones in the areas hit by TC Yasa could call and leave the contact details of their loved ones, so  that we could go out to the field trying to find them and restore contact. The hotline rang non-stop  from the moment the cyclone had passed through, and we knew quickly that there were hundreds of  people anxious to know whether their loved ones are save and well. We knew, it was urgent to get  them the news they were looking for quickly”, says Joseva Ravula, RFL Focal Point of the FRCS.  

After having already connected dozens of people with their families the day before, on the early  morning of Monday, 21 December, the team went off to Navakasiga in Bua, looking for the parents  of Eparama Wavu, who had contacted the Red Cross after learning that they may be able to help him  get news from his parents. Navakasiga is far of the main road, and it wasn’t always clear to the team  if they would be able to reach, with many villages still being cut off by fallen trees or washed away  bridges. After a long drive, they managed to reach Navakasiga and find Eparama’s parents. They told  them that their son was anxious to hear from them.  

“I woke up yesterday to my phone ringing. It was them, the Red Cross, standing outside the house of  my father, speaking at the other end of the line. My heart skipped with excitement, hearing my  father’s and mother’s voices, learning that they are safe and well. When I contacted the Fiji Red  Cross, I never imagined that they would fulfill my request. But I was wrong. They did it and showed  me what “Humanity” truly its. Words fail me.” say Eparama Wavu. 

Whilst in Navakasiga, the Red Cross team helped twenty other families contact their loved ones  through satellite phones to inform them how they are. In the first five days of the RFL response to TC  Yasa, the Red Cross has managed to restore 102 families out of the 108 cases received.  

“When disasters strike, families may be separated or lose means to stay in touch. As much as they  may need water, food or shelter, for many people the biggest anguish is not knowing if their loved  ones are ok”, says Björn Rahm, ICRC Protection Coordinator. “Throughout the world, the ICRC and  national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies help people separated by disaster, migration or armed  

conflict to restore contact.” 

In Fiji, the ICRC provides training, technical guidance and logistical support to the Fiji Red Cross RFL  activities. 

“Restoring Family Links has become one of our core activities when responding to natural disasters”,  says Ms. Ilisapeci Rokotunidau, Director General of the FRCS. “This activity responds directly to the  needs of the affected population, and we are happy that we can address this alongside our provision  of relief material.” 

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