A team from the Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji country program has taken food, water, clothes and other essential items to assist the Ra Provincial Council to address the need of the communities that were badly affected following Tropical Cyclone Winston last week. The Cyclone caused havoc in the province of Ra, Lomaiviti and Bua with thousands of people in these islands and villages being completely displaced from their homes.

WCF-Fiji has closely worked with these villages for years supporting local communities better protect and sustainably use their natural resources.

Assistant RokoTui of Nakorotubu District, Mr Timoci Ratu was pleased to receive the team and expressed his gratitude saying that the supplies will be evenly distributed to villages in the Nakorotubu district.

According to Mr Ratu, this was the first time the people of Ra have experienced this level of destruction, with 80 percent of homes within a number of villages being completely destroyed. He stated it would take at least a year for these communities to rebuild their homes.

He added that for now, the people of Ra are in dire need of food and shelter.

“It is a sad sight to see all these villages being completely destroyed by the Cyclone. In Nanukuloa only four houses are left standing whilst the rest have been levelled with the ground, this is the same sight for many villages here in the province,” he said.

“In terms of food sources, villagers have resorted to food crops like cassava and taro that have been uprooted as a result of the cyclone; these will soon run out as a huge portion of these root crops would eventually rot.”

Mr Ratu has also confirmed that 50 percent of villages in the province that were destroyed, have received food ration, water, medical supplies with some have been medically evacuated to Suva.

“My biggest worries are the communities in the interior as well as those living in low lying coastal areas that can only be accessed by boat, there has also been no communication, and these are the people that need assistance the most.”

Mr Ratu said that majority of the schools in the area have been completely destroyed and it is most likely that the children from these communities would miss out on schools for months.

As for the people of Koro in the province of Lomaiviti, villagers have slowly begun to pick up the pieces left behind following Cyclone Winston according to Nakodu village headman, Alipate Tiko.

He said that all their sources of income including dalo, kava plantation, pandanus, were completely destroyed during the cyclone. For now, villagers are living on breadfruit and fish.

“Our village is already receiving food and water supplies from government and other donors but for now, the challenge for us is to build our homes so that we can move on with our lives,” Tiko added.

In the coming weeks, WCS plans to visit Lomaiviti and Bua provincial officers to further asses the needs of communities and identify ways to assist them to rebuild their lives and be better prepared in times of disasters.

WCS-Fiji Director, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai said WCS has been reaching out to all its networks to get the international committee to donate to the relief efforts in Fiji. While WCS is not skilled to deal with natural disasters and current relief efforts, it will be supporting the communities it works with through the longer recovery process.

“One way forward for us is to better incorporate disaster risk reduction and management component into district ecosystem based management plans, to ensure that these communities reduce the risk of natural disasters, and are well prepared if and when disaster happens.”