As the official count of destroyed or damaged homes and schools rises in Fiji following tropical Cyclone Winston, Habitat for Humanity is mobilised to provide emergency shelter.

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand chief executive Claire Szabo said the charity had been on the ground in Fiji for 25 years, and was responding as part of a formal group of aid agencies.

“With power out in most places, no water in some communities and ferries and jetties damaged, communication is beyond hard. And so we know that the official current stats of 364 homes destroyed and 136 damaged is likely to blow out.”

“We know that whole villages have been flattened, and that nearly 14,000 Fijiian people are displaced. This is much more than about 500 homes to rebuild or fix – and we need help from Kiwis to make it work.”

Ms Szabo said the charity had been taking donations via its website, and also at its network of charity stores (ReStores) throughout the country. She said she anticipated those funds would be matched or bettered by a New Zealand Government response early next week.

“Right now, there’s a critical and urgent need for shelter, and we’re working through our disaster response process so we can provide the most appropriate support for the families of Fiji.”

“For Habitat – and all other charities that respond in a disaster like this in Fiji – it’s a careful and methodical response in amongst the… destruction.”

“Habitat staff who were already in rural communities working alongside partner families, are now assessing damage with local government officials. And Habitat’s international disaster response specialists are en route.”

“Our hearts and minds are with the families of Fiji, and especially to those who are grieving or searching for missing loved ones. While the scale of this disaster is unprecedented for them, unfortunately Habitat is no stranger to providing shelter following destruction.”

“We were there in Nepal when the earthquakes struck last year, and we are now in Fiji. This begins with assessment, clean-up and transitional shelters, and then plans to rebuild or repair cyclone-resilient housing when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.”

Ms Szabo said Habitat was coordinating with the Fiji government, Red Cross and the UN.
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