Just weeks after the devastating impact of Cyclone Winston, Fiji is once again bracing for a severe tropical cyclone.
Cyclone Zena has rapidly intensified to Category 3 strength and within 24 hours it is expected to tear along the densely populated southern coast of Viti Levu - home to more than 70% of Fiji's population and its capital city, Suva.
Extreme weather is already causing flooding across the country, with broken river banks and high tides putting children in danger.
"The flooding and rains associated with these tropical disturbances could not come at a worse time for children and families in Fiji,” explains UNICEF Pacific Representative, Dr Karen Allen, from Suva.
“These are the same families that were directly affected by Cyclone Winston just over a month ago. Far too many are sheltering under tarpaulins, pieces of salvaged corrugated iron, in tents or again in evacuation centres."
Communities are facing wind gusts of up to 120kph and much of the country is predicted to receive 200mm of rainfall in the next 24 hours.
"This poses significant threats to the health and wellbeing of children and families,” added Dr Allen. “Flooding and displacement like this exponentially increases the risk of all types of disease spreading quickly, especially diarrhoea, skin disease, eye infections and respiratory infections.”
“At a time like this we are also deeply concerned about the emotional wellbeing of children and families who have already been living under conditions of extreme stress since Cyclone Winston. For families who have already lost everything this will be a huge setback to their recovery efforts.”
UNICEF is closely monitoring the situation and will be joining rapid assessment missions to affected areas. The cyclone season has been especially unpredictable in the South Pacific, due to the effects of El Niño.
Fiji still recovering from Cyclone Winston
This new threat comes soon after communities were devastated by Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. The storm left a trail of destruction through Fiji - damaging schools, hospitals, homes and water supplies and leaving over 40 per cent of the population in need of assistance.
UNICEF teams have been working tirelessly to help families back to their feet. Thanks to combined relief efforts:
- 150,000 Fijians have access to safe water again
- 56,600 sanitation and hygiene kits have been distributed
- 12,500 children have been provided learning materials
With a permanent office in Fiji, UNICEF was there from day one and we'll be there for children as long as we're needed.