On Saturday 20 February 2016, Cyclone Winston, the strongest cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere, hit Fiji with full force. The death toll after Winston reached 44, including 16 fatalities within the Ra Province on the northern side of Viti Levu. There the extent of the devastation was incredible, with 90 percent of homes destroyed or made uninhabitable and many villages, schools and crops wiped out - leaving Fijians fighting for survival.
As the only aid organisation based in this province before Winston hit, The Salvation Army was uniquely positioned to provide immediate and ongoing emergency relief to the community. This included emergency containers stocked with mattresses, tarpaulins, generators, wheelbarrows, chainsaws and clothing, as well as food and water supplies.
Following consultation with the Fijian Government, The Salvation Army was given responsibility for 13 remote villages in the Ra Province. Two of the hardest-hit parts of this province were Rakiraki village and Malake Island village. At Rakiraki village, where the cyclone first made landfall, there was almost total devastation of the homes located there. The local school was also damaged, with their kindergarten uprooted by the wind and never found.
The nearby island of Malake is home to over 1,400 people - many of them living 10 people to a household in the fishing village. The isolated nature of the Island meant that when the cyclone hit, the villagers had little warning of its intensity. It also meant help took much longer to arrive.
The Army focused on rebuilding the worst-hit homes in these villages first, providing building materials to rebuild damaged homes. Tarpaulins were in high demand as a temporary solution for a missing roof or wall, as were portable cooking stations to allow families to prepare meals. Food and water were provided to families who lacked access to both, along with practical items such as clothing and bedding.
With many schools damaged, the Army was also asked to provide psycho-social support to the local children. A specialist travelled to Fiji to assist on the ground, focusing on the children’s wellbeing and addressing their feelings and fears.
Six months on from the devastation of Cyclone Winston, and thanks to The Salvation Army families are beginning to rebuild their homes and lives. You can read below about how the Fijian community is getting back on their feet after suffering through the worst natural disaster in recent history.
This support would not be possible without the incredible generosity shown by Kiwis to our Fiji Emergency Appeal. Over $325,000 in donations was received for this appeal, which allowed The Salvation Army to provide life-changing help to Fijians in desperate need. Thank you so much for choosing to care for Fijians in need – your kindness has given them a hand up for a brighter future.
For all enquiries regarding fundraising, corporate partnerships and donations, please contact:
The Public Relations Director
PO Box 27001, Wellington, 6141
Phone: +64 4 382 0744
Email: Public Relations