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Our families in Fiji need help- Now!

From UNICEF – Our families in Fiji-Arish Naresh Web

Arish Naresh lived through a number of cyclones as a child in Fiji.

He relives how terrifying the experience can be for a young person. The following are his words.

It leaves a massive psychological scar to remember your parents putting the shutters on the windows, tying the house down with ropes to stop the roof from flying away.

I think it was during the early 1990s when one of the other larger cyclones hit. I remember as a seven-year old staying up the whole night with my parents, both of them praying because all you could do was pray at that point.

Parental solace

Even though I was young, the whole incident is very clear in my memory, the ferocious winds and the strong desire for it all to be over. Both parents held us through the night and tried to console us, ‘just hang in there you will be fine.’ They knew the scenario was bad, but they did their best to help us get through.

When morning finally came, the relief was huge. The family went outside first and there were trees fallen everywhere, even on the roof, but we were just relieved to still have our lives.

Ever since the cyclone warning was placed we have been very tense, filled with worry for friends and family.

Fiji is home still.

Serious damage

A cousin who I managed to reach has suffered major damage to his house, most of the roof was destroyed, most of their possessions are soaked, they are struggling.

Our families in Fiji-Scenes of destruction in Tamavua, Suva, Fiji WebHe told me that they would move into one of the rooms where they can still live. They have neighbours with children who do not even have that option, whose roofs have been blown away entirely. The only thing they can do is move into makeshift shelters at the local civil defence centre.

The local Civil Defence Centre in many cases is the school. I have been informed that in Ba and Tavua, some schools have lost roofs as well — some families did not have that option.

Harsh realities

It was difficult to reach people in Fiji on the days following Cyclone Winston. The power outage meant that they were not able to charge their telephones. There was obviously a congestion of phone lines with everyone trying to reach their families.

It is quite a tragedy in Fiji at the moment.

Winston was one of the worst cyclones to have hit Fiji. Even though they are used to these weather events, the feedback I heard was that the impact would be felt for a long time.

People in Fiji need immediate food supplies as well as makeshift shelters.

A majority of them are poor and hence would not have savings as we do or access to credit to rebuild their homes. Any immediate help including shelter and the basic needs should be rendered on priority.

Arish Naresh is on the Board of Trustees of UNICEF New Zealand.

For donations and offer of support to children in great need, please visit www.unicef.org.nz

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