12,000 desperate children need help

  • 28th January 2003
  • 2003
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A preliminary survey by the Save the Children Fund shows 12,000 of the 39,000 students in the cyclone hit areas of the Northern Division (Labasa and Savusavu) are in desperate need of assistance to begin the new school year. (Fiji Times 28/1/03)

SCF director Irshad Ali believes this is just the tip of the iceberg The Fund is expecting to get a fuller picture when schools start next week because they are liaising with schools in the area to track down students who desperately need assistance.

The fund is despatching $5000 worth of books and stationery to the North and sees the need to organise lunch and bus fare programmes for affected students.

But says Ali: “…it will really depend on the funds available:.

The rehabilitation task is too massive for any one organisation to cope with.

A survey by the Fiji Teachers Union shows that 75% of all schools in affected areas have sustained damage to school buildings. It has a list of 26 schools that have sustained more than 40% damage. Of this list, at least one/third have suffered 80% damage to school facilities.

Three schools have been completely destroyed with just the floors standing. FTU believes a number of these schools will not be able to reopen unless they receive substantial assistance from government to rebuild.

With the extent of damage to schools, it is impossible that schools will be able to re-open for cyclone affected areas next week. “Parents are still desperately trying to get roof on their heads and finding food to survive,” said one observer.

The situation in regard to food is now expected to get even worse as whatever root crop was spared by the cyclone, starts to rot in the ground.

Any type of farming for the next couple of months at least is out of the question. Farms are still submerged in 18ins to 4feet of mud.

Meanwhile, many Indian settled areas continue to be disregarded by government in the distribution of rations. A Fiji Times report tells of how hungry Indian families are being turned away from government relief centres because their areas have still not been surveyed two weeks after the cyclone.

Reports show that large areas have not been included in the government survey and will therefore not be considered for relief rations.

In areas where surveys have taken place, it has been done on a random basis resulting in many desperate families missing out.

Says Diwan Chand a former school manager from Nakama: “The survey is very unfair. A lot of people who have lost everything have been left out of the survey while others who have lost little are getting full rations.”

Where rations are being distributed it is very meagre. A few days supply at a time.
On the other hand, truck drivers tell Fiji Labour Party MPs that whole lorry loads of supplies are being off loaded at Fijian villages.

The FLP has written to all diplomatic missions engaged in providing relief assistance to channel their provisions to the Red Cross or NGOs to ensure against racial discrimination.

Leader of the Opposition, Mick Beddoes has also criticised government for ignoring Indian dominated settlements in the distribution of relief assistance.