The Fiji Labour Party has criticised government for neglecting the needs of hundreds of families badly affected by cyclone AMI.
“It is three weeks since the cyclone struck and they have yet to receive any help from the government,” said FLP parliamentary leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, who has just returned from a five-day visit to Vanua Levu and Taveuni.
In many areas, particularly Savusavu and Taveuni, families are desperately short of food because government has decided to delay the distribution of rations to them. Those who have lost their homes and belongings need clothes and medicine for the sick.
Mr Chaudhry said he was surprised to hear officials say that people in Taveuni and Savusavu had enough food to last for three to four weeks.
“It is sad to see families with young children whose homes have been demolished having to ask others for help to feed them,” said Mr Chaudhry.
The Fiji Labour Party and National Farmers Union have distributed well over a thousand food packs to the victims in many areas of Vanua Levu where government help had not reached the affected families.
Mr Chaudhry said he had asked officials to investigate complaints of racial discrimination in the distribution of rations and tents. It is alleged that members of the Indian and other minority communities were being ignored by certain officials responsible for relief operations.
Donor governments and agencies need to carry out their own investigations into this matter, he said.
My assessment is that relief operations need to be better coordinated and handled by people who have had some experience in such work. People have complained about rude officials and insensitive remarks made by some of them.
In many cases the quantity of rations supplied is so little that it would not last beyond two or three days.
“I have suggested that each affected family should be provided a month’s supply so that they don’t waste time worrying about their next meal, and get on with rebuilding their homes and attending to their damaged farms,” said Mr Chaudhry.
Families who have had their homes blown away need to be helped to rebuild. They should be paid an assessed cash grant or be given the equivalent in building materials as was done after Cyclone Kina in 1994.
Government machinery needs to move much faster than its present slow pace to deliver assistance effectively to the victims of the cyclone, said Mr Chaudhry.