Halfway through the 2020-21 tropical cyclone season in the Pacific, residents on the island of Vatulele continue to rebuild their lives, with support from Fiji Red Cross and ANZ, almost one year on since Tropical Cyclone Harold.

In July 2020, ANZ donated $500,000 to a number of charities across the Pacific, including the Red Cross, to assist their efforts to help communities isolated by Covid-19 and affected by the cyclone. Following Tropical Cyclone Yasa, ANZ Fiji donated a further FJ$30,000 to local Fijian organisations.

The Fiji Red Cross has been working to support cyclone-affected families, many of whom are still dealing with the impact of Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold, which hit in April 2020.

On the small island of Vatulele, 32 kilometres south of Viti Levu, islanders described Tropical Cyclone Harold as one of the worst they had ever experienced.

Taunovo Village Headman, Paula Kautamaiwai, said his community was already experiencing food and income shortages due to the Covid-19 lock-down before Tropical Cyclone Harold hit. The cyclone ripped through the community, severely affecting the island’s main source of income, the tapa plant.

Rebuilding has been challenging, but Paula describes the community’s approach as a journey back to independence.
“The villagers were quite thankful of the assistance from the Red Cross in providing tarpaulins, cooking utensils and water.

“Now we are working together as a community cleaning family ‘masi’ plant plots, working on one plot at a time to prepare for the future so that we are not dependent on donations and assistance coming in from outside. These donations will add to what we are able to build up as a community with our own initiatives.”

Fiji Red Cross representative, Josiah Sagaitu, said Vatulele had sustained major damages.”After our first assessment, shelter, water, sanitation and health were some of the issues we were addressing.

“Thanks to ANZ funding, Fiji Red Cross Society was able to continue what they did best, in terms of serving the vulnerable in times of disasters.”

ANZ Fiji Country Head, Saud Minam, said it was encouraging to see many Fijian families rebuilding, despite the challenges faced this cyclone season.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it is encouraging to see the resilience displayed by Fijians this cyclone season. ANZ will continue to support communities in need.”

The funds donated went towards water filtration systems, collapsible water containers, shelter tool kits, solar streetlights, community messaging systems and the recruitment of volunteers.

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