CARE's response to Tropical Cyclone Winston: Paulina's Story

 OtherEmergency Response, Food Security, Water Sanitation & Hygiene,
 21st Feb 2017

The strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, Winston swept through Fiji on Saturday 20 February, devastating the Pacific nation. Altogether, 350,000 people were affected with 42 killed and 131 injured. CARE jointly delivered aid with our local partners in Fiji, Live and Learn, to some of the hardest hit communities, reaching more than 25,000 people across 231 villages and 19 schools. On the mainland, two of the most severely impacted villages were in the Rakiraki region, where this interview took place. The aid delivered here consisted primarily of seed kits, hygiene kits (the red buckets, containing soap bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, women’s hygiene items, and water purification tablets), shelter/tool kits (containing tarps, ropes and tools (which varied depending on need; to these two communities tools included hammers, saws, pry bars, and shovels)).

Paulini’s story in her own words

I am 64 years old. I live with one of my sons. This very spot is the foundation of my house. The woodwork is the rebuilding. When Winston came it blew away everything that I had. My home and all of my belongings.

Even before Winston I have been suffering from diabetes. One of my feet is amputated and is in a sock. So it is quite hard for me to work. I was living in my house with my son. My husband has passed away. I lived with one of my sons and rely on him to survive. There is barely any source of income here, even before Winston.

When the cyclone came, I was living with my son. The wind got into the house and started blowing away the house. I was afraid for my life. I told my son that I wanted to die outside. He set me in a toilet cubicle and told me to wait there until the wind had died down. It was a very, very scary experience.

Immediately I was worried about my house being fully destroyed by the cyclone. I was worried about where to live next. Where would I sleep? Where would I live? My house had been fully destroyed by the strong winds.

I am very, very thankful for what came in the red bucket. When it came I knew there were people out there who really cared and thought about us. And with diabetes I was very, very thankful. Thank you very, very much.

Both of my sons are farmers. They plant root crops such as cassava, taro and kava.

Indeed all of the root crops and vegetables were very badly affected by Winston.

At present, food is a problem, especially with the devastated crops. At present we buy rice, flour and whatever we can get to have proper meals every day.

One of the things that was really, really needed especially, as an elderly woman, were the accessories in the red bucket – soap bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, women’s hygiene items, and water purification tablets – things that we needed to go about our daily lives. This was one of the things that I remembered that was distributed.

At the moment I am living in a tent. My son is building me a shelter. It is all corrugated iron and at present I am waiting and hoping that my new home will be built.

One of my hopes is to get a proper house and shelter.

I am elderly and diabetic. As you can see I won’t be living too long on this earth. All I care about is my sons and their families and their survival.

One of our main worries is the scarcity of food. Vegetables, root crops are the main staple of our livelihoods. It is difficult because the things take a long time to harvest so we are always reliant on the things available in supermarkets. The youth are already beginning to plant cassava and sweet potatoes. But these will not be ready until next year. So it takes a long time to earn an income.

My eyesight, as I grow old, I get blurred vision. This is a problem as well, especially when I am moving around and carrying out my daily duties.

One of the major problems we are experiencing is the lack of water. There is no water. It is difficult to live without water, especially in the toilet and kitchen. It is difficult for me to move so I have to rely on other people to get water for me. This problem of water has been around since our fathers and grandfathers and we are still facing it at present.

Just a big assistance would be to cater to my foot that has been cut off. Is there any other assistance that could aid me so I did not have to burden my sons and other households? If there is nothing done about my eyes I will have major problems with my mobility.

Find out more aout our work in Fiji here

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