20 Apr 2016

Grave concerns remain in flood-affected parts of Fiji

8:31 am on 20 April 2016

The head of the New Zealand branch of UNICEF says there are grave concerns about the health and education of people in flood-affected areas of Fiji.

Vivienne Maidaborn has just returned from disaster affected areas in Fiji, and says some areas damaged by Cyclone Winston in February have bounced back remarkably.

But she said that in areas affected by subsequent heavy rains and flooding, crop damage had created a severe food shortage and hygiene issues.

A Taveuni beach with Qamea Island in the background after Cyclone Winston in Fiji

A Taveuni beach with Qamea Island in the background after Cyclone Winston in Fiji Photo: Alex Perrottet/RNZ

Ms Maidaborn felt that as NGOs and foreign defence forces wound down their disaster relief operations, there remained a lot to do.

"From a UNICEF point of view the next priority is to ensure clean water sources and sanitation," she said.

"So people's toilets have kind of blown away or flooded so open defecation is suddenly the main toileting method, and we've got to change that fast."

Education concerns in post-Cyclone Fiji

Vivienne Maidaborn said one in five children have not returned to school since Cyclone Winston, and their education may start to be affected.

The cyclone and subsequent flooding destroyed many school buildings, but most classes have resumed.

Vivienne Maidaborn said 80 percent of Fijian children are back at school, but 20 percent appear to be missing.

She said while they are probably helping their families clean up or have moved to other areas, it is important that they return to classes soon.

"Reconnecting children with education as soon as possible is critical, because the longer you leave it the habit disappears. So we'll be working hard finding those children, either finding them enrolled somewhere else, or encouraging their families to get them back to school."

Fiji's Tavua District School shelters evacuees once again despite its gaping roof.

Photo: RNZI / Sally Round