After the storm: Reset, recover...and rebuild
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Our team in Fiji has worked around the clock over the last month to help those affected by December's Tropical Cyclone Yasa - and has so far helped bring sanitation to more than 700 rural residents who had suffered devastating losses in the storm.
Field Ready staff, Fijian government workers, members of the military and volunteers - as well as other NGO partners - have delivered latrines, handwashing stations and drinking water buckets to rural residents on Vanua Levu as all have pitched in to rebuild following Yasa's devastation. While nearly all 880,000 Fijians were affected by the Category 5 storm, Vanua Levu was hardest hit; the high winds and surging ocean destroyed thousands of homes on Fiji's second-largest island and many remote villages are struggling to recover.
Field Ready has so far delivered and helped install 127 of our specially designed pit latrines to residents of 26 villages on Vanua Levu, said Operations Manager Jean Matthias. More than 720 residents will benefit from the latrines, which will help improve local sanitation and prevent water-borne illnesses such as the typhoid and dysentery that often occur after plumbing and sanitation is destroyed in disasters.
Krishneel Singh, one of our field engineers, has been critical to the latrine distribution at
the villages. The experience, he says, will never leave him.
"On my first day (at the end of December) we received 58 latrines set with the help of Sea Mercy - there were 40 sets already on the island," he said.
Krishneel and the rest of the team then traveled for about two hours to a remote village called Cogea, which sits about 2 kilometers from the ocean and lies between two rivers with a hot spring in its center. TC Yasa's heavy rains and high tides had caused extreme flooding in Cogea, which completely wiped out 18 houses and their gardens - leaving the families who lived there without food, shelter, clothing, water, sanitation or the means to rebuild their lives. The site of several former houses is pictured below.
Once there, team members assembled 12 latrines and showed residents how to install them, Singh said. Training went quicker than expected: The village residents were so enthusiastic about installation they soon began teaching each other "and after a while I saw them training the small ones," he said. "The smiles on their faces were priceless."
On the second day the team took a boat from Labasa Town to Kiya Island, about 45 minutes from Vanua Levu. Yaro Village on Kiya "was really badly affected and was noted as second on the priority list of Ministry of Health and Medical Services WASH list," which meant it was very seriously damaged, Singh said.
Accompanied by representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and a health inspector from Labasa, the team turned its focus to dignity - and helped build a tent (below) to provide privacy for some of the expectant and new young mothers of Yaro who had been sheltering there. Until that day, the young women - many of them teens - had had no private space for sanitation since the monster storm hit. The addition of the privacy tent helped users feel some sense of normalcy restored amid the storm's aftermath.
The team followed the tent with the delivery and installation of four more latrines before moving to the next village. And the next. And the next.
Field Ready's drinking water buckets and portable handwashing stations are also being distributed in the damaged villages through our partners. Fiji's MoHMs is distributing the 500 drinking water buckets we produced for them last fall with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA); the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is distributing 60 handwashing stations we produced for them.
Team members expect to be on their latrine delivery and installation mission in Fiji for a while. "Everywhere, there is so much damage," Matthias said. "It is just heartbreaking."