Via Shifting the Power Coalition:
In gumboots and flip-flops Fane Lomani and Unaisi Bakewa waded through the Tavua flood waters to visit families at local evacuation centres yesterday. Of particular concern were persons with disabilities, women including pregnant mothers and children.
Unaisi is the local leader of Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation and Fane is a rural convenor of femLINKpacific who conducted rapid response and emergency pack distribution in Rakiraki, Tavua and Ba collaboration with the Shifting the Power Coalition following TC Yasa.
According to Fane while radio and social media updates provided weather information for the evacuees many were surprised by the flash flooding of their village on Thursday night. However they had to wait until Friday for the evacuation centre to open, taking their personal belongings including bedding.
A spokesperson of one family told Fane and Una that primary concern is food for the 11 members of the family including 6 children and an 11month old baby.
Crops and vegetable gardens are now submerged in water and as the families remain in the evacuation centre long term food security is a priority says Fane.
Just over four weeks ago Unaisi Bakewa would walk from her Tavualevu village home to the Tavua Emergency Operations Centre at the District Officer in the small western division town. A representative of the District Council of Social Services (DCOSS) and a member of the Fiji Disabled People's Federation local network as well as the Rainbow Pride Foundation.
A call from the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation on Thursday night got Unaisi mobilizing assistance in the low-lying areas Tavualevu for persons with disabilities. Unaisi had been watching the water level rise in her area after days of continuous rain brought by the current weather system.
After contacting the Tavua District Officer - still on TC Yasa deployment in Bua, and learning that there was no evacuation centre open, she organised with the turaga-ni-koro to open the village hall. Many preferred to simply move to higher ground and family homes. She is also aware that there are others in low lying villages who also need evacuation. After finally going to sleep at 130am, she was back on the response before 6am today to organise additional assistance.
Earlier this month she told the Shifting the Power Coalition that "disaster management should focus on the elderly, disabled and those most vulnerable. There is a need to put a greater focus to reach persons with disabilities to educate them on disaster preparedness as well as reach women in remote communities."
Unaisi is a reminder that disability inclusive disaster response and management requires support for their caregivers as well as ensuring that evacuation procedures take into account the range of disabilities and all evacuation centre facilities are accessible:
"I'm concerned about the lack of disability access in the ECs, (that's why) the DPO members prefer to go to family homes"
PC: Fane Lomani