Saimone and his wife Marica live in a small village outside of Suva, Fiji’s capital. The couple provide for their daughter Maraia (4) and son Saula (11 months) by fishing in the estuary a few steps from their home.
Saimone explains that opportunities to generate income are limited in the village and his family lives a very basic life. “Here we can’t even plant anymore because the soil is mixed with the sea. Just a little bit we can plant cassava, just for us to eat,” he says. “The main source here is from the sea, which is fishing. But when it’s bad weather then we have to stay [home].”
When Covid-19 hit and the village went into lockdown, Saimone was no longer able to travel to sell the extra fish he catches in local markets. While he was happy for the chance to spend more time with his young family, Saimone struggled to make ends meet as the pandemic worsened.
Families like Saimone’s have been receiving help from Save the Children’s cash transfer project. The project team use mobile money to distribute three monthly payments of $200FJD ($130 AUD) to people who have been financially impacted by Covid-19, with a particular focus on supporting households with children under five years of age.
Saimone says that for his young family, the support came just in time. Marica was pregnant with baby Saula. She had just gone into labour and been admitted to hospital when Saimone’s neighbour told him about Save the Children’s cash transfer project.
“My wife was pregnant at that time. I came back from spearfishing one night and she told me she has to go to the hospital,” he explains. “I didn’t have any money in my pocket. Someone just came here and told me about your group, so I went to fill in the form.”
“The whole of Saturday and Sunday I was thinking about where I can get the money. I can’t just go and borrow,” he explains. “I can’t do that – I don’t have that kind of life.”
Saimone remembers what happened next vividly, “I had a call that my wife gave birth. I don’t even have one dollar in my pocket.” It was only when he got to the hospital that the young father was able to breathe a sigh of relief. “I picked up my phone, then I saw the message that I got the $200,” he says.
“That cash, I spent on the baby,” Saimone says, explaining that he purchased nappies and paid for a taxi to bring Marica and baby Saula home. “During those three or four days, they were in the hospital I could go and look after them and bring food for them during lunch hour and at dinner time.”
Saimone says the cash transfer helped him to give Saula a better start in life and strengthened the family’s resilience during a difficult period. “I was proud that I can get that money on time and I can see my baby boy – just to bring him what he needed,” he says.
Save the Children has already provided cash transfers to over 39,000 families like Saimone’s. 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 families across Fiji.
Disclaimer: The project is now closed and we are no longer accepting any applications for this program.