Our Disaster Aid Response Team (DARTs) is now in place in Fiji. Howard Bradfield (Australia) was the first to arrive followed by Team Leader Peter Hazell (UK), Steve Lister ( UK) and Wayne Beaumier (USA).
As is the case for any planned deployment, a lot of groundwork is required to coordinate with the other local and international support agencies, including local Rotary groups, before even making the first assessment trips. An important part of this process is participation in the Shelter Cluster meetings organized under the umbrella of the UN. Given theses early stages of recovery, the cluster meeting on 10 March was only able to disseminate key statistics and data as it is still awaiting meaningful information from the field. However, the consensus was that the greatest need was for rebuilding or repairing houses.
The next few days were spent sourcing material to make up shelter repair kits and planning their first assessment trip A major challenge for the former being the acute shortage of corrugated iron for housing. The team were then ready on 12 March to set off for their first trip to assess damage, explore logistics and talk to local communities along the east cost of Fiji’s main island, Levu. The team travel along the coast from Suva to Vatukoula and then returned on the inland route.
It was clear that the devastation was particularly evident amongst the poorest communities where the poorer standard of the buildings made them very vulnerable to the cyclone.
The team were also shocked to see how much devastation the cyclone had done to the normally lush vegetation, which obviously will have implications for them.
Where some of the debris from the storm landed.
A second assessment trip took place on Ovalou, a small island to the North East of Levu, which had already been identified by a first-responding aid agency as having a significant and urgent need for shelter. Disaster Aid International aims to give priority to the more remote communities that frequently get neglected during a disaster because of the logistical difficulties of reaching them.