Rigieta Kaleka, 69, sat quietly inside her partially damaged home in Buliya, Kadavu, listening to passersby discussing incoming relief to her village following Tropical Cyclone Harold which hit the island in April this year.
Ms Kaleka, a widow, knew she qualified for TC Harold assistance but was worried that her disability might restrict her movements, not allowing her to reach the distribution point.
In an interview, she told teams from the Adventist Development & Relief Agency (ADRA) Fiji and the iTaukei Affairs Board (ITAB) that her prayers were answered when they came to her home to offer assistance.
Ms Kaleka relies heavily on government’s social welfare assistance for basic needs and it was timely during the time of the visit by ADRA Fiji and ITAB, as her supplies had just finished.
“I don’t move around at all and I am confined to my own home, so I was worried when I heard that we needed to come to the village hall to receive the assistance. Today, I am thankful for your effort in ensuring that disabled people like me also receive assistance,” she said.
“I ran out of basic items and I was waiting for my next social welfare payment to restock, so I express my sincere thanks to all of you for coming to my home. It will help me buy what I need.”
Josefa Seru Sema and his wife from Namalata village in the district of Tavuki, also live with physical disabilities and the couple live on their own without a caregiver.
“I woke up this morning and prayed to God that there will be sustenance and provisions for my family and I was not expecting that by evening my prayers will be answered. If you enter our home and look up, part of the roof has been blown off. This money will enable us to buy some corrugated iron sheets so we can repair our home- at least three or four pieces to stop the rain and sun from coming right into the house. I am very thankful for the great help that comes right to our home and acknowledge the great help on behalf of my family. Thank you,” said Mr Sema.
Cash Voucher Assistance (CVA) enables beneficiaries to determine urgent needs, as well as supports the local economy by ensuring money is spent in local market systems.
The direct impact was evident with Iliseva Toga, a canteen owner in Nasegai village in Tavuki, who said sales increased during the CVA distribution, allowing her to stay in business and care for her family’s needs.
“My husband and I are planning on using the profit to expand the business to meet the growing needs of the village,” she said.
Salote Druma of Namara village in the district of Sanima echoed the same sentiments, saying since the distribution, recipients have cleared their debts and purchased biscuits, noodles and tinned foods.
ADRA Fiji Director, Iliapi Tuwai said “the CVA is an alternative to traditional aid, whereby affected people receive either physical cash or vouchers in place of goods-in-kind and non-food-items, in the event of a disaster. It is the direct or transfer of payments to victims of humanitarian crises to assist them in situations where opportunities for employment, income, livelihood, or economic production are extremely limited or have ceased to exist.” This allows cash received to be spent where, how, and when the recipient chooses.
The distribution of CVA will continue in the coming months to include Vatulele and Southern Lau islands.
Ms Kaleka, Mr Sema, Ms Toga and Ms Druma are four of the 2056 households in Kadavu that received assistance through the TC Harold Response CVA. The distribution in 76 communities is part of the assistance to areas ravaged by TC Harold in April during Fiji’s lockdown period due to COVID-19.
This TC Harold relief assistance is funded by the Australian Government and managed by United Nations Development Porgramme, Resilience and Sustainable Development Team. It is jointly implemented by the Disaster Resilience for Pacific Small Island Developing States project, ADRA Fiji and the ITAB. It aims to reach vulnerable communities and marginalized groups affected by TC Harold and to ensure no one is left behind.
The team conducted distributions in the Lau group last week covering 12 villages on the islands of Matuku, Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau. They assisted 314 households with a total population of 1141 including 28 people living with a disability.
Team ADRA Fiji was part of a joint mission between UN Pacific, Government, Civil Society Organisations and members of the media.