These case studies are part of the evaluation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) – funded Disaster Response Partnership (DRP) Project. The entire DRP project was implemented between April to December with the main activities conducted between October to December 2021.
The main objective of the project is to provide early recovery child protection services to 35 most affected communities in two provinces, Macuata and Bua, in Vanua Levu. The project intends to decrease human suffering associated with natural or human-induced disasters and to improve child protection mechanisms and practices in 35 communities affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasa.
Caption: Children of Yaro Village. Photo credit: Save the Children Fiji
Case study 1: Yaro village, Kia Island.
Katherine Rounds, mother of a 6-year-old boy, reported the terrifying experience of TC Yasa as her house was badly damaged and nothing was spared. The structure collapsed as the cyclone intensified while the family was inside. They took shelter in the village hall. The family continued staying there for a month as they took up the pieces to rebuild their lives.
Kemeli, the village headman, said the super cyclone ripped through 26 houses in the village and 12 houses suffered partial damage. Families were living in tents after the cyclone and a few of them continue to live there. Some families have relatives on mainland and abroad who have helped them recover.
There was assistance coming their way after TC Yasa which included tents and tools from AusAid, seeds from ADRA, clothes from Bargain Box and groceries.
Reflections from the training:
Kemeli said he understood the rights of the child better after the sessions from Save the Children Fiji as well as the concept of child abuse. Mentioning some rights such as the right to education and the right to a free life, he said child abuse cases must be reported and after the training, nothing would stop him from doing so.
He mentioned the importance of supervising children and taking care of them and how vital it was for parents to know how to handle scenarios relating to children’s issues. He also spoke about how negligence can be fatal and can result in severe forms of abuse such as rape.
Katherine on the other hand said the training enabled her to understand how to care for children, especially during disasters and has also been beneficial in mentally preparing for the cyclone season.
Case study 2: Vunisea village, Macuata
Caption: Children of Vunisea Village utilizing the CFS Kit. Photo credit: Save the Children Fiji
For the 39-year-old Mariana, TC Yasa is associated with a lot of fear as she remembered her children’s terrified faces amid the cyclone. Their house roof was blown and their toilet and bathroom were also damaged. The warning for the hurricane was given and she began preparing for it by filling in water and cooking food. Their house was also tied but couldn’t withstand the force of strong winds.
“I remember how my father went to buy gas, flour and sugar from Labasa Town when the cyclone warning was given and we all sheltered at the community hall when it struck. I am now afraid of cyclones but I felt safe with other children when TC Yasa had struck.”
Emineri 11 years old
For Rusiate, whose typical day revolves around farming said he also prepositioned stock and by 3 pm went to the community hall. It was a frightening experience as the winds were strong and whistling as they hit the village. The headman of the village, Timoci said many houses were damaged and by 6 pm, only 2 houses were left standing. All villagers sheltered at the hall. Two weeks later, disaster struck again when TC Ana brought about flooding to the village.
According to the participants, their elders who are 90 years and above mentioned it was their first time to experience such a strong hurricane (Category 5).
After the cyclone, the village was littered with roofing irons, shattered glass and fallen trees. Luckily, there were no injuries. Assistance was received from AusAid with building materials, tarpaulin, tents and money, Ministry of Agriculture and Live & Learn gave seedlings, WFS gave dignity kits and clothes.
Mariana said it was important to look after children well, especially in times of disasters and the workshop enabled her to boost her parenting skills. Some of the things she can do differently after the training include keeping children occupied with toys, having a full-time supervisor, talking to them politely, giving children love, care and hugging them and she feels she can do better should another disaster strike.
Rusiate gave an ambiguous answer when it comes to Children’s Rights and also mentioned that rights came with responsibilities. After COVID closed schools, children, he said, could be mostly found playing around the village and would enter others houses without seeking permission. For him, this was one-way giving rights to children was spoiling them. He also said that before they would only be seeing their children during tea time and lunch but it has changed after the training. They now spend more time with them and have a program for the kids. In future, they are planning to build a shelter for the children and their activities. He requested SCF to provide more similar training.
Timoci is against children’s rights and feels children should not be given rights because they do not listen.
“I think children are not supposed to have rights”.
He feels giving rights to them makes them rebellious and pushes them away from traditional life
Case study 3: Naravuka village, Macuata.
Caption: Survey participants of Naravuka Village. Photo credit: Save the Children Fiji
During TC Yasa, the Turaga-ni-koro had advised giving money to cater for the food and of evacuees, as they had people from neighbouring villages also sheltering in their hall. The evacuation centre was overcrowded and some refused to come early. In the midst of the cyclone, some who remained in their houses were calling for help but nothing could be done as the hurricane was very strong. Semesa a teenage boy also recalled coming to the village hall as the disaster happened as their house was damaged.
Letila, a grandmother, lives in Naravuka with her husband and have recently moved back to the village.
“I feel village life is much better than city life. We did not suffer much damage except the kitchen ceiling which came down and my flower garden was destroyed. Children needed to be protected by adults because they were the ones who brought them into this world so I am always concerned about my grandkids.
I do not support children’s rights because it gives children the confidence to fight for their rights, to talk back and they become bold enough to put up a fight. My granddaughter has been very disrespectful towards me.”
Letila, 60 years old
Salote, who is originally from Lomaiviti, Lau and visiting her grandma’s village said her family stored food and checked their house when the warning came. However, their house roof was blown while the family was inside. They waited for the winds to tame before moving to a neighbour’s house. Her father waited for assistance from Red Cross in rebuilding the roof.
Savenaca who is in charge of children in the village with a group of others said he has called a meeting of secondary school girls last month to talk about the issues surrounding them. He said the group that looked after the safety of children visited schools and taught rugby skills. He said he agreed with children having rights because in earlier days, Turaga-ni-yavusa used to give orders to elders and they quietly followed it. Parents used to hit their children but times are changing now. People are becoming modern. He mentioned how his wife used to verbally abuse his children at home and after the workshop, he shared his learnings with her. He made her aware that the children had a right to report abusive parents after which they apologized to their kids.
Savenaca also talked about an incident where an underage girl was reported to police by her mother for being in a relationship. The police had intervened and the matter was before the court now. He said with the training, there was more awareness in parents on how to handle sensitive cases.
Parents were concerned about their children’s whereabouts and would take interest in getting to know about their lives. He praised the work of the facilitators who did an excellent job and gave very clear explanations.
Salote said the training had made her responsible and that she would inform her parents about her whereabouts every time she leaves the house, unlike before. It taught her that children’s rights come with responsibilities.
Case study 4 Dama village Bua
Caption: MEAL Officer Nadia explains the consent form.
The damage from the cyclone has not been repaired fully until today. Help arrived from Fiji Pine, 27 roofing sheets, Red Cross gave beddings, Catholics gave food and Ministry of Agriculture gave seedlings.
Meredani, the wife of the headman at Dama Village described her experience of TC Yasa as that which was stronger than Winston. Her two grandchildren aged 4 & 5 years were with her family when the hurricane struck. Strong winds and heavy rain forced the family to evacuate to the community hall. Her grandkids were extremely frightened by the heavy rain and thunder. Her house roof was blown off and the house got filled with water so quickly the family couldn’t save any belongings.
For Meredani, the training was an emotional day. It taught her a lot about issues relating to drugs, teen pregnancy, child abuse and how to help children in need. She said she never abuses her children or grandchildren; she is fond of hugging them and loving them. She is a big supporter of disciplining children without violence saying that children can feel the harsh words said to them and it can be damaging. It is always a good choice to teach them good manners, counsel when they are in need and teach them good morals. She also said that after the training she has noticed that those parents who usually hit their children had stopped and become less violent.
She said the training was a big eye-opener for her husband.
For Joshua (top) and Melisio (bottom), both in their old age, life is all about attending to their plantation and looking after their families. When TC Yasa struck, both men with their families moved to the evacuation centre and saw a lot of devastation in the village. Roofs were blown off, plantations ruined and children were crying. For Joshua, he moved to his house after the cyclone to look after his sick wife, who passed away shortly after. The other villagers remained at the hall for about 2 weeks and cooked and ate communally.
Joshua said he supported children’s rights and felt child safeguarding was essential, especially in times of disasters. He mentioned that small children should not be tasked to carry out duties such as fetching water from the well or harvesting cassava from the farm as it’s not suitable for them and must be done by adults. He relayed how he had changed his ways and would now pray with his grandchildren and have meals with them.
They said to him: “Grandpa you have changed”.
Joshua said the way elders talked to children had an impact on them and it was important to be polite. Melisio echoed the same sentiments and emphasized being polite and kind towards children. He said he had shared the learnings from the workshop with his wife. He is encouraging his daughter to treat his granddaughter with kindness and resort to non-violent ways and even asked if he could report his daughter.
Case study 5: Votua village, Bua
Caption: Adi Fulori with her grandmother in Votua Village. Photo credit: Save the Children Fiji
For little Adi Fulori, who was living with her family at the Fiji Pine Quarters, TC Yasa was a terrifying experience. They moved from their quarters to Lekutu Secondary School to take shelter and unfortunately the roof of the school also blew. She witnessed the roof being blown off the ceiling coming down. Her mother, along with her brother and Adi then rushed to the library. They stayed in the library for the whole night and did not have anything to eat or drink because the ceiling had landed on their food and ruined it.
Josese, a 32-year-old said Yasa made life difficult and COVID-19 added to the hardships. Many loggers and Fiji Pine workers from Votua Village were finding it hard to get their contracts renewed. Speaking of TC Yasa, he said his 82-year-old grandmother had said she had never seen a hurricane so intense. The cyclone which lasted 7 hours destroyed 11 houses and the rest were partially damaged. Even the evacuation centre roof was blown off.
“Children and elders were terrified”
When the cyclone had passed, villagers inspected the village and started the clean-up. Most families spent 2 weeks at the evacuation centre. Help was coming from NGOs while AusAid gave tents and food. The major problem was water shortage as Yasa burst their main pipeline and it took 3 months to repair. Their main water source is 20 km away from the village.
“There was no counselling provided to children who were traumatized and that was one of the services lacking in response efforts”
It was impressive to note that 10-year-old Adi Fulori was able to reflect on some teachings of the workshop. She talked about good touches and bad touches and said it was important for children to take permission to go out of their homes. It involved their safety. It was also important for children to listen to elders.
Josese said he was very happy to learn how to treat children and was supportive of children’s rights. He said we needed to learn about rights in order to overcome abuse. Traditionally, hitting children was widely accepted and parents mostly did it out of anger. He said children imitated the behaviour of parents and everything started at home. The teachers could not be blamed for bad behaviour. Josese also praised the trainers for being well-equipped and being able to answer questions. He noticed that after the training, parents were relaxed towards their children and allowed them to play without being abusive.
“Most of the time it’s our temper that controls us and we think it’s the right way to teach our kids, but it’s not helping, it’s doing the opposite”.
Case study 6: Yadua village, Bua.
Caption : participants of Yadua Village. Photo credit: Save the Children Fiji
Teenager Lusiana is one of the brightest students in Yadua. She shared her experience of TC Yasa when she was in Labasa. There were 4 adults in the house with her when the hurricane blew the roof off and they had to seek shelter at the neighbouring place. They managed to save some belongings, food and water. Luckily no one was hurt and the family relied on the radio for news. One week after the cyclone she returned to Yadua Island and on the island continued being housed at the neighbours. The only issue they faced was dirty water and having to boil drinking water.
Josaia, the Head teacher for Yadua Primary School describes his experience during TC Yasa
We had prepared well for the cyclone but my quarters were not strong enough to withstand the strong winds. We lost 95% of our belongings when the winds lifted the building and flung it away. It was a traumatizing experience for the entire village. My family along with some other villagers sheltered underneath the flooring of my quarters. Among them were 4 babies who were wet and cold and the adults were helpless as the only thing they had was clothes on their back. I asked them to pray and keep hope.
When the winds tamed a bit, I did a headcount and found one person to be missing. Upon searching for him, we found him partially buried in debris and we checked his pulse. He had died because a partition fell on him.
“After the cyclone, I took a vacation with my family to the mainland and my relatives were kind enough to buy us new clothes, blankets and mattresses. We stayed in a hotel for a few days to get some decent sleep before returning to Yadua Island.” Josaia, 38 years old
Aid came from AusAid, MOE and many other NGOs.
Reflections from the training:
Lusiana said she felt happy to know the rights of children but felt those were not respected by parents. This was a change needed for them to practise their rights. For instance, children were called to help with chores when they wanted to play or relax. She also mentioned that parents were the best decision-makers for children and that they need to seek permission before leaving the house. She said there need to be more educational resources available for them to keep them occupied after disasters.
Josaia relayed that nowadays homes were not such a safe place for children and unlike overseas countries, Fiji did not have care homes for children where these abused children could shelter. He said the training was a point of realization for many as they ponder upon the major issues surrounding children and the gravity of matters at hand.