By Kelera Serelini-Varawa

On Thursday, 3 March 2016, on behalf of all the staff of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Watisoni Lalavanua and I left Suva to deliver emergency rations to the province of Bua in Vanua Levu. We took across a 3 tonne truck filled with food and water supplies to distribute to affected communities. Many of these communities we have long term relationships with spanning over a decade. Some of the people have become like family to us.

On arrival at Nabouwalu jetty we met up with WCS’ field staff Sirilo Dulunaqio (based in Savusavu) and proceeded straight to the Bua Provincial Council Office to coordinate with them on our relief efforts, and to find out which communities had the most urgent needs. Our first community visit was to Nabouwalu village, where we dropped off 50 kg rice, 50 kg flour, 10 bags of yellow dhal, 10 kg bag of sugar, a carton of tuna flakes and 10 cartons of water.


The Sue Family standing on what was left of their home at Nabouwalu Village, Bua.

It was quite shocking for Watisoni, Sirilo and I to see so many homes that were completely destroyed in Nabouwalu village with most families now sharing living spaces with their neighbours. There, we also met with the Sue family who only has the floor of their home intact. All other homes had been blown out to sea. As for twelve year old Karen Sue, youngest in this family, the whereabouts of the walls and roofs of their home was the least of her worries. She was more irritated with having to sleep in the open. “We sleep in the tent for now and at times when it rains we run to our neighbour’s home to take cover” she said. This was actually the reality of most villagers here whose homes have been completely destroyed by Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston. After delivering the village’s food ration allocation to Buli Raviravi (the Village Chief), we turned our attention to the remaining villages within the District of Vuya.

It was an an emotional trip to the village of Navave and Vuya. We were overwhelmed by the destruction that was before us – broken trees, broken power lines, landslides, plantations overturned. We could only try to imagine what these people had gone through during the two hours when Cyclone Winston forced its way through their villages and homes, leaving behind an altered landscape, especially those communities living around the Bua coastline.

On the road to Nasolo and Nasawana villages, the team passed vehicles carrying relief workers with supplies from the National Disaster Management Office, government officials and corporate organisations including Vodafone Fiji, Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Health, Water Authority of Fiji, Roads Authority and the Fiji Electricity Authority. The authorities were also busy assessing the state of each community and their immediate needs, as well as what they would need to start to rebuild their lives.

Communities within the district of Nadi were that they were more fortunate as compared to villages located along the coasts. Most of the homes in Nasolo Village, Nasavu and Sawani had roofs missing but could easily rebuild as compared to villages near the coast.

Night had already fallen when the team completed distribution of supplies to communities within the District of Nadi and Wainunu. By the time we left for Namalata Village to spend the night, we were exhausted but content that we had brought out smiles on the faces of the people that that WCS works with. It was good to reach out and learn first-hand how each of our communities were fairing, and to better understand the road to recovery ahead of Fiji.