Asenaca Manono took the cyclone warnings seriously and moved her family immediately to the evacuation centre before Cyclone Winston hit the town of Ba.
One of her children Tevita is 16 years old and uses a wheelchair. He is also extremely sensitive to loud noises and other sensory stimulation.
“My husband pushed him in his wheelchair down the road in the rain, luckily we’re just behind the evacuation centre” she said. Asenaca said it was pitch black when the winds starting getting stronger but they weren’t the only family at the evacuation centre. “One of the first families to get here was on the top floor of the school. When the roof blew off they quickly moved downstairs.”
It was only the next morning that she was able to inspect the damage and her worst fears were realised; Cyclone Winston had taken all of their possessions.
“Right now there are six families in this one classroom and we are making do with what we have,” she said
Asenaca and her family in a classroom at AKP Primary School, Ba that they are sharing with 6 other families. (Picture: UNICEF Pacific/2016/Vlad Sokhin)
Their evacuation centre is one of the few that has running water and she said this made catering for their large numbers more manageable.In the hall of the evacuation centre children can be heard laughing as they push Tevita in his wheelchair towards his mother after a walk.“He’s not good with change, a lot of noise and new things makes him agitated, they mean well but I need to keep an eye on him” she said.
Asenaca takes Tevita out of the wheelchair and puts him down on a mat in the middle of the classroom floor, covering him with a thin blanket. He closes his eyes and covers his ears as if to block out the world.
Tevita lies down for a nap after spending the afternoon with the children in the evacuation centre (Picture: UNICEF Pacific/2016/Vlad Sokhin)
As she looks at her son, she says, “We have nothing, we need all the help we can get, something, anything” 39,500 people remain in 963 evacuation centres around Fiji.
Supporting children to return to school and learning is a UNICEF priority in emergencies. School, whether in a classroom or a tent, provides a safe, structured learning environment where children can learn, play, connect with friends and process their experiences. This allows parents to focus on recovery efforts and supports children’s emotional recovery after distressing experiences.
UNICEF Pacific is working in partnership with the Government of Fiji to respond to the urgent needs of affected children and communities. Within 36 hours of the cyclone hitting Fiji, UNICEF was distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies to those most in need. These supplies include ‘School-in-a-Box’ educational supplies and tents, to support badly damaged or destroyed schools to quickly resume classes.
Neisau worked as an online communications consultant for UNICEF Pacific and was deployed into the field post TC Winston to cover human interest stories, this piece was published on their blog.