After Fiji flood, churches, Christian agencies help thousands
January 31, 2012
Christian agencies are assisting thousands affected by last week’s severe flooding in the western part of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, which killed six people, including four from one family whose house was buried in a landslide.
Nearly 3,500 people are in 74 evacuation centers run by churches and community groups. The Fiji interim government has declared a state of emergency in the area. The Jan. 23 tropical rainstorm submerged buildings and caused $18.7 million in damage and destroyed half the crops and livestock in the area.
The Ecumenical Center for Research, Education and Advocacy, a non-government agency based in Fiji’s capital, Suva, has identified 750 families from small communities around the town of Nadi whose homes are under water.
The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) called on the general public to help those affected by the floods. “Whatever little you can contribute will go a long way for our brothers and sisters in Western Viti Levu, as well as in Vanua Levu, the majority of whom have lost their belongings in the floods,” said PCC Climate and Disaster Risk Officer the Rev. Ikani Tolu. “We can rebuild to restore hope and dignity to those most in need.”
Although the Australian and New Zealand governments are providing $565,000 in aid assistance, help from public authorities does not always get through to some informal settlements.
Church World Service, in cooperation with Catholic aid agency Caritas, has launched an appeal to provide immediate assistance to these areas and has identified counseling and psycho-social support as a top priority.
Nazarene Church leaders have mobilized local churches to provide food, water and one of the biggest needs ― clothing. “I am impressed with how the local churches, under the direction of the Fiji District leadership, are working hard to respond, especially trying to help those currently in the evacuation centers,” Nazarene field strategy coordinator Harmon Schmelzenbach said.