More funding to assist women and children

Shayal Devi, Saturday, March 19, 2016.

UN women will provide further funding to Empower Pacific to allow further counselling sessions for those living in areas affected by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

In the aftermath of the cyclone, more than 20 staff of Empower Pacific were sent out to assess the situation on the ground and provide help to those in need.

UN Women's Fiji representative Aleta Miller said assessments such as those conducted by Empower Pacific were crucial for identifying and addressing the specific needs of women and children.

"We have received reports of women feeling unsafe in evacuation centres, sexual harassment and increased workload and stress," she said.

"Having this information early in the response means we can move quickly to work with Empower Pacific and other partner agencies to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent violence against children and women and women have access to important information and services."

Senior Empower Pacific counsellor Bimla Madavan said they conducted assessments on the spot by looking at emergency needs.

Initial reports also found evidence of depression, grief and trauma among affected communities.

At times, they found children rushing back to the place they sheltered in during the cyclone as the weather started to change.

"We can see the pain in their eyes and hearts," Ms Madavan said.

"They are back to square one and they have so much grief. At this time, we can only supply a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on."

In spite of the trauma and devastation, Ms Madavan said bonding within and between communities had grown stronger.

"It brought them together to support each other. We are all caring for each other."