SUVA, Fiji — Cyclone Winston, a powerful tropical storm, hit the island nation of Fiji on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. According to weather.com, Cyclone Winston was a category five cyclone—the most violent level storm possible—and the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit the Southern Hemisphere. Villages, homes, schools and health facilities were damaged from the storm’s severity.
According to the UN, Cyclone Winston left roughly 14,000 people sheltered in evacuation centers. The death toll reported by the Daily Mail was at 44. Although the storm was a tragedy for Fiji, outside organizations and states jumped to provide assistance. The UN reports that the Government of Fiji declared a state of natural disaster for 30 days in order to create sufficient time for the clean-up process.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), stated that its main concern was to aid children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers across Fiji. UNICEF also stated that communication was down in many of the outer islands of Fiji, thus little was known about some of their statuses.
UNICEF Communications specialist Alice Clements stated in a UN article that it is likely the smaller villages of Fiji were most drastically affected by Cyclone Winston, due to the smaller villages’ weak infrastructure. These villages would not be able to withstand a category five storm and the people of these areas may have lost homes, crops, food and shelter.
“The amount of destruction to infrastructure, livelihoods and homes that something like this can do is just immense,” Clements said in a UN article.
Fortunately, the U.N. reports that UNICEF has pre-positioned supplies in Suva and Nadi, including, health kits, water kits and education materials. UNICEF will also actively support the Government of Fiji by helping with child protection, education, nutrition, water and sanitation. Relief supplies have also been confirmed to arrive on Koro Island, where whole villages have been turned upside down, UN reports.
Australia and New Zealand are also providing Fiji with aid, according to the U.N. New Zealand flew two million dollars (NZD) worth of water containers, tarpaulins, generators and tool kids to Nausori Airport in the capital city of Suva on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Australia will also be providing a five million dollar (AUD) assistance package of relief supplied to 1500 families.