Fiji School Aid a Lesson in Government, Charity Partnership
Thursday, 17th March 2016 at 3:11 pm
A $2 million partnership between the Australian Government and international aid agency Save the Children is helping young Fijians return to schools damaged by Cyclone Winston in February.
The funding, on top of emergency relief already provided by the government and agencies, is described as a significant step in restoring services to devastated communities.
Save the Children is working in the north east of the main island of Viti Levu and several of the worst affected smaller islands to restore water sources in schools, set up temporary classrooms and distribute learning materials.
“We know that experiencing a disaster like this is extremely traumatic and distressing for children, so the sooner they get back to school where they are safe and have a sense of routine and normality, the better,” CEO Iris Low-McKenzie said.
Save the Children’s Head of Humanitarian Affairs Nichola Krey said the partnership with the government via the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was an important and integral part of working effectively in disaster zones.
The current Humanitarian Partnership Agreement with DFAT has been in place for four years and includes CARE Australia, Caritas Australia, Oxfam Australia, Plan International Australia, Save the Children Australia and World Vision Australia.
“In the Pacific DFAT has a very firm presence in their support to the region. So there is very little point in us accepting money from DFAT without closely coordinating with their existing programs, particularly in the area of education,” Krey said.
“In this example, $2 million has been provided to us to get children back to school, which is fantastic. But if we are not partnering with the government, coordinating and information sharing then we are going to duplicate efforts and the footprint they have already created.
“This goes for all emergencies but particularly in the Pacific with DFAT’s presence there. They are the major donor in the Pacific. We hold regular coordination calls with them making sure we are sharing information with them from the ground because often.we have more information than them, being on the front line. We try to inform their response, what sectors they should be responding in, etcetera.”
Krey said partnering with DFAT on pre-positioning of supplies was also critical.
“We share a warehouse with DFAT in Brisbane and when it comes to giving aid we partner with the Royal Air Force and DFAT to transport those goods to the country that has been affected.
“It is a multi-dimensional partnership and it is quite new but we have been moving towards that wording because of the open dialogue we have been having,” she said.
“They are listening to us when we tell them what is needed on the ground. And being prepared is the key.”
Low-McKenzie said it would take many months before Fiji is fully recovered from Cyclone Winston.
“The humanitarian response is in full swing, but such is the scale of this disaster that it will still be some time before life in Fiji returns to normal,” she said.
“Some villages have been completely flattened. We are doing everything we can to support these communities, and this funding from the Australian government will make an enormous difference.”
Save the Children has been working in Fiji for more than 40 years providing education and children protection services, and now the agency is working with the Ministry of Education for educational assistance in response to Cyclone Winston.