No destination is too far and no task too daunting for Israel’s aid workers who are now operating to assist Fiji’s population and get them back on their feet after being struck by a devastating cyclone.
An Israeli humanitarian aid team arrived in Fiji on Tuesday to help reconstruct the local village of Vuma, after it was severely damaged and nearly destroyed in a natural disaster in February 2016, the Foreign Ministry announced.
Cyclone Winston hit Fiji on February 20, causing massive damage, killing 34 people and affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands. More than a month after the storm, over 54,000 Fijians still live in emergency shelters, at least 120,000 are in need of emergency aid and approximately 350,000 others are at risk, trying to recover from the destruction and trauma.
The objectiveof the Israeli aid team is to reconstruct the village of Vuma, located on the Island of Ovalau, through constant collaboration and cooperation with the local community. The team will provide short- and long-term services to the village’s residents in fields in which Israel holds a significant comparative advantage such as water purification, treatment of sanitary needs, agriculture, and trauma treatment.
The team consists of Israeli Foreign Ministry staff from the embassy in Canberra, Australia, and representatives of relief agency IsraAID. They are cooperating with the Australian organization “Island Breeze,” comprised of Fiji natives.
Upon arrival, the Israeli team assessed the damage inflicted by the storm and drew up specific solutions and plans for initial aid to the devastated population. The team met with senior Fijian governors who expressed their appreciation for the Israeli aid and also met with local community leaders.
Later, the team is set to focus mainly on treating and improving residents’ psychological and mental state. Finally, the team will focus on rehabilitation of the water infrastructure and creation of sanitation and hygiene services.
One project goal is to provide local communities with the knowledge and tools to ensure the reconstruction process continues after the Israeli team leaves the island and that the project’s success can be repeated in other cases as well.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the Fiji mission is “part of a view that stresses the importance of involving and educating local communities in all development processes. This demonstrates the uniqueness of Israeli aid, in which high technical capabilities are combined with diplomacy, while recruiting and training local volunteers.”
By: Michael Bachner/TPS