It has been six months since Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February, 2016. This category 5 cyclone was the worst disaster to hit the country in recorded history and left more than 31,000 houses damaged or destroyed across Fiji.
Habitat was on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone and work on the disaster response began through its local office. With assistance from donors and other Habitat offices in the Asia-Pacific region, emergency programs were quickly planned and implemented.
As programs began, contributions and support from donors were key in completing the distribution of shelter-related kits. 737 shelter repair kits, 666 individual family tool kits
and 1,335 community tool kits, with each community tool kit used by multiple families, were distributed. 6,483 families, totaling approximately 32,415 people, received support through emergency phase programs. This surpassed the initial target of 5,000 families, or 25,000 people. Overall 294 communities in 28 districts received aid from Habitat and its local partners.
What we’ve achieved together
Shortly after the disaster struck, Habitat Fiji developed a two-year response plan to Tropical Cyclone Winston, involving emergency relief, early recovery and rehabilitation
phases. The emergency phase has now ended, and recovery and rehabilitation programs have begun. In the recovery phase, programs include repairs and cyclone retrofitting for
homes, community training for water, sanitation and hygiene, house repairs and ‘Build Back Safer’ training. For the rehabilitation phase, programs include construction of new
houses, and major WASH repairs for communities.
Shelter unites mother and daughter
A 39-year-old single mother’s hope of reuniting to live with her daughter after the cyclone in Fiji is now a reality. Terry was renting a tiny house in Narere, working and struggling to make ends meet at a Suva garment factory where she earned only 34 Fijian dollars (US$16) a week. Her nine-year-old daughter, Fuata Suliana, lived with relatives far away in Waiqanake to attend school.
When Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji, the factory shut down due to the lack of electricity in the wider Suva area and workers were released. Terry was one of the many workers sent home. Terry was worried for her daughter’s safety: “I was safe in my Narere flat but I knew my daughter was not in a secure place… part of the roof of my brother’s house was badly damaged and there was water inside the house.”
Terry had applied earlier for a Habitat house, and was delighted when she was selected. “I was really on top of the hill when I heard the good news. I was very happy when Habitat called me and explained over the phone that my application has been successful. I could not stop crying while they were explaining the process to me”, she said with great warmth in her eyes.
Terry’s 6 meter x 3.5 meter house was built during the ‘Build Back Safer’ training of trainers organised by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the Fiji shelter cluster. This training was in support of the ‘Help for Homes’ initiative launched by the Government of Fiji. The objective of the pilot training program was to promote ‘Build Back Safer’ construction tactics in communities following the cyclone. Twenty participants took part in an intensive three-day construction training program, building Terry’s house in Waiqanake settlement in Lami, just outside Suva.
Terry has been living with her daughter in her new house since May.
After the long separation, Terry is now experiencing the joy of living in her own home reunited with her daughter. Teary and emotional, she explained that she knew her daughter missed her and she is more than glad that life has changed for them.
Terry now works as a caregiver three days a week earning US$7 a day. She said staying away from her daughter was one of the biggest obstacles she had to face in life, knowing that her daughter was missing out on “the love of a mother”.
“It’s a miracle!” Terry said. “That is why this house built by Habitat means so much to me. I can live with my daughter and be safe”