Our Perspective


Hand in hand, we are stronger than Winston

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Even as they lament the losses, people especially the youth are busy at work, clearing debris. Photo Tova Andersson / UNDP

As we approach Koro Island the crystal blue waters that lace it are breathtaking. Taking in the stunning vistas one can hardly picture disaster here.

In the aftermath of TC Winston which struck Fiji in February, my mind was prepared for the destruction, having seen the photos. But there is a huge difference between pictures and witnessing first-hand the destruction of a village, following a storm surge.  

The devastation in the village of Sinuvaca is staggering. As one walks through the village, there are only remnants of what were once houses. What remains are mostly foundations. One man showed me the outline of what used to be his four-bedroom home.

In the face of such destruction by the forces of nature, there is at first only sadness.  I was overwhelmed by stories of personal loss, and in that moment it was hard to envision the future.  

But amid the destruction and the loss, the building of a better future is already underway. It promises better days to come for the people of Koro Island.  

Even as they lament the losses, people especially the youth are busy at work, clearing debris. Debris clearance may seem matter of fact but it is a crucial first step in helping villages rebuild, get people on their feet and back to work, and to erase the scars of the cyclone.

The My Fiji Initiative – by the Ministry of Youth and Sport in collaboration with UNDP – is at work in the hardest hit villages of Nasau, Naqaidamu, Sinuvaca and Namacu.
Teams of youths – about 130 in all – are clearing debris from villages and farms in cash for work program. They have been trained to do the job and provided with the necessary equipment.

Witnessing the progress made with each passing day is remarkable.  I could see how quickly large areas were cleaned up.

I talked to one young woman in Nasau about the quick progress. She was happy to see the village being cleaned up, and she was keen to partake in the work.  

Given how remote the island is, any assistance and equipment helps. The isolation presents logistical problems such as transportation, which is always an issue. So it is useful to have as many helping hands as possible.

I left Koro with sadness, but also hope. Apart from the tremendous rehabilitation work being done there, the greatest memory I take back with me are the faces of youth. Always smiling, despite what they have been through, and despite the challenges they face. Working together they are as the villagers say: ‘Stronger than Winston.’

Cyclone Winston have may have damaged homes and trees, but it could not the dent the spirit of Koro Islanders.

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