Both MWF and PWA have a concern for the impact of domestic and gender based violence on the health and wellbeing of women, families and communities. Covid 19 has caused significant disruption to the lives of families in the Pacific. In Fiji, the tourism industry collapsed, affecting thousands of workers, many of whom have returned to their villages due to loss of income. Housing and food production in the village struggled to accommodate the sudden incursion of now unemployed workers, and their regular income to the family ceased. Most Fijians lost income as the markets closed and many businesses ceased operating, at least in the short term. All of these factors placed enormous pressure on families, and many incidents of domestic violence were reported.
In Fiji CWS is partnering with SEEP (Social Empowerment Education Programme) in its Covid response. Initially SEEP concentrated its efforts on the 43 rural communities where it works, making sure they protect their communities and have the latest health information. They supported the community dispensaries/clinics and community nurses in the rural areas, ensuring they had basic equipment, PPE and first aid materials.
Urban families were affected more seriously, with many struggling to put food on the table, and facing 14-day lockdowns with little warning. One of SEEP’s initial actions was to purchase food from its rural partner communities, who lacked access to the market, to provide emergency ration packs for people in the urban areas, including those living in the informal settlements. Alongside emergency food packs, SEEP included hygiene kits and, where possible, backyard kits to help families start or replant their own (home) garden.
SEEP worked closely with other NGOs to distribute emergency food rations to struggling families, and to raise awareness through the distribution of posters and radio messages. As the number of cases rose, the health system was struggling to cope
The first stage of SEEP’s response identified a very vulnerable group of senior citizens, as well as single mothers and youth. While the government has provided some support in the form of free bus fares and food vouchers, some remain at serious risk.
The next stage of SEEP’s response is focusing on this group – on those who are vulnerable with little or no income, who are living unassisted and without a network of relatives to support them. It will
provide necessary items to improve their lives, and will engage the single mothers and youth in implementation to strengthen their skills and network within the communities.
Food security has been a real problem through the pandemic in Fiji, with many people returning to their home village from their employment in the tourism industry. Overcrowding and ensuring wellbeing within the household are a concern. Establishing home gardens will assist families by reducing stress on the budget, provide sufficient food and a focus on increasing food production at the household level.
SEEP plans to continue its ‘circular economy’ response by linking the rural and urban communities through the sale and exchange of food and other commodities. Priority will be given to large families especially those with disabled or elderly members, or with a lack of adequate income.
Even with relatively high vaccination rates in Fiji, the recovery period for the communities and the economy will take some time. Your support for the Special Project shows SEEP and other partners that you are standing with them during this very difficult and uncertain time.
More recently, the pandemic has spread to Tonga and Solomon Islands reports a rapid and extensive spread of the virus, threatening the capacity of hospitals and health facilities to cope. CWS will continue talking to partners about what support is required and how we can engage with them.