Kiniviliame is a single dad to five children, all under 12. They live together in a single room in a public housing block on the outskirts of Suva, Fiji’s capital.
Before the pandemic, Kiniviliame worked as a bartender. “When Covid-19 hit, we had to close down the nightclub,” he says. “Up until today there is nowhere else, and I am still looking for work,” he explains. “I have dropped my application everywhere, but no one has approved it.”
The pressures of the pandemic also took their toll at home. Becoming emotional, Kiniviliame says, “When I became unemployed, that’s when my family broke up.” The single dad has found it increasingly difficult to provide for his children since. “The struggle that we face every day is that we have no food at home,” he says.
Save the Children is providing cash transfers to Fijian communities who have been impacted by the economic downturn caused by Covid-19. The team use mobile money to provide three monthly payments of $200 FJD ($130AUD) to families like Kiniviliame’s, with a focus on supporting households with children under five years of age.
Kiniviliame learnt about Save the Children’s project from a neighbour. After connecting with our project team, he was grateful to receive his first payment in November 2021. He recalls the moment clearly. “The night I received the text message – to tell you the truth, at home we had nothing at all,” he explains, gesturing to the kitchen. “My water and electricity bills were piled up.”
“I told the children that we had a blessing,” Kiniviliame remembers. “The next day we went out to buy things that we did not have at home, especially the basic needs for every day,” he says. “I took that $200FJD to do shopping for my family. I paid for my bills as well.”
When the second payment came through, Kiniviliame bought school supplies for his children. Each child received a backpack and stationery so they could go back to school after the Christmas break.
Reflecting on the impact the payments have had on his life, Kiniviliame says “I see that there’s been a very big impact on my children. Because for me – from what I see – I cannot provide for them. And when the assistance from Save the Children came through it really helped them, especially to eat every day.”
“It was a very big help in my life especially when I had nothing,” he says.
Kiniviliame is grateful for the support he has received from Save the Children. “I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much to Save the Children in Fiji and Australia for thinking of single parent families like mine,” he says.
The third wave of COVID-19 continues to sweep Fiji, shuttering local businesses and dampening tourism. Despite still grappling with the devastating impacts of the pandemic, Kiniviliame remains hopeful for the future and is determined to make ends meet for his five children. “My plan for now – well, if the assistance is extended, I will start my own small business to help us with our day-to-day life,” he says.
Save the Children has already provided cash transfers to over 39,000 families in Fiji. Our research shows that 85% of households assisted so far have spent their money on food and other basic needs and 49% of households put the money towards their children’s education.
Cash is the most efficient and effective way to empower emergency-affected communities – and COVID-19 continues to be the most pressing emergency Fiji faces today. We know cash works, and that the project is already making a huge difference for the lives of vulnerable Fijian families like Kiniviliame’s.