Unicef NZ launches emergency Fiji appeal as aid agency begins damage assessment
Unicef New Zealand has launched an emergency fundraising appeal for Fiji as the extent of the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston remains unclear.
The tropical cyclone, the strongest recorded storm to hit the South Pacific, pummelled into the island group at the weekend.
At least 20 deaths have been confirmed, villages were flattened and communications have been disrupted for many areas.
Concerns are growing for outlying islands in the Pacific nation as tens of thousands of people live in areas hit directly by the category five storm.
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A 30-day state of emergency has been declared.
Unicef is readying stores from a warehouse in Suva to be sent to Koro and Ovalau islands, two of the areas badly damaged by the cyclone.
The aid agency estimates more than 60,000 people including 26,000 children live in areas that experienced the worst effects of the cyclone and more than 400,000 people live in badly affected areas.
Unicef New Zealand executive director Vivien Maidaborn said the full extent of the destruction was not clear yet.
"So many families have lost everything and so many communities have been completely flattened.
"This is a tough time for Fiji and Unicef will do all we can to race supplies and help to where it is needed most.
"Unicef staff are currently packing up supplies from our warehouse in Suva. Our teams will then work closely with government and other partners to navigate extreme logistical challenges so that distribution can begin immediately."
Children and families across the island group will need extensive support to meet urgent sanitation and hygiene needs, water supplies and essentials such as water containers, water purification tablets and soap.
In the aftermath of a cyclone and damage to infrastructure, water supplies are often at risk as stagnant water increases the risk of waterborne diseases.
Schools have been destroyed and buildings are being used for shelter so Unicef plan to supply tents for use as temporary classrooms.
"So many New Zealanders have strong connections to Fiji and we are appealing to each and every Kiwi to help us get Fiji back on its feet once more.
"Many people with family in Fiji will also know firsthand the trauma their loved ones have been through and the heartbreak they've suffered at seeing their country destroyed.
"The next few days will also be critical as the scale of this emergency continues to unfold.
"Unicef will continue to scale up efforts to reach as many children and families that need immediate assistance," Maidaborn said.
To help visit unicef.org.nz/fiji or text FIJI to 2923 to make a $3 donation.
HOW CAN YOU HELP FIJI?
To help via the Unicef emergency appeal, visit unicef.org.nz/fiji or text FIJI to 2923 to make a $3 donation.
The Fiji Red Cross Society has asked for any donations to be deposited directly into its ANZ bank account, account Number: 1313354; BSB: 010890; SWIFT: ANZBFJFX. Please state TC Winston Fiji Red Cross Appeal and your name.
Tearfund has also launched a Fiji appeal. People can donate at www.tearfund.org.nz/cyclone-winston, by calling 0800 800 777 or using the Pushpay App.
Auckland mayor Len Brown has activated the Mayoral Fund for the Pacific. The fund is managed by Auckland Communities Foundation (ACF) and donations should be made through ACF at www.aucklandcf.org.nz,via direct payment to the ACF bank account (with reference 'MFP' to ASB Bank account 12-3028-0714703-00), or via cheque made payable to 'Auckland Communities Foundation Mayoral Fund for the Pacific' and sent to PO Box 26087, Epsom 1334.
The Salvation Army has launched the Fiji Cyclone Relief Appeal, and donations can be made online via www.salvationarmy.org.nz/ - please specify 'Fiji Cyclone Relief' as the specific purpose for your donation.