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By UNICEF Australia
18 December 2020

A category five cyclone tore through Fiji on Thursday night causing hurricane-force winds, flooding and landslides.

More than 93,000 people, including 32,500 children, were in the direct line of Tropical Cyclone Yasa on Thursday night. The Northern Division, which is one of the most impoverished regions in the country, bore the brunt of the cyclone.

Our thoughts are with the families of the four people who have recently been confirmed dead and one person who is missing, highlighting the devastating impact of the storm.

The full extent of the damage is still emerging, with reports of widespread flooding and landslides in Fiji's north where buildings and crops were destroyed. Many communities have been cut off from assistance due to flooding and destruction of roads.

Our colleagues are on the ground assessing the destruction and pre-positioning emergency supplies. UNICEF is ready to mobilise its bigger stock stored in the Australian humanitarian warehouse in Brisbane.  

Cate Heinrich, Chief of Communication at UNICEF Pacific, said getting emergency items such as water, sanitation kits and shelter there was "going to be a challenge" as she updated from the country’s capital Suva. 

"We're getting photos coming through with schools completely demolished, roofs blown off and families talking about hiding under shelter overnight to survive the storm," she said. 

UNICEF has pre-positioned essential water, sanitation and hygiene items, including soap, water containers and buckets, to ensure children and families have access to clean drinking water. 

Water and hygiene, early childhood development, recreation, and school-in-a-box kits, water containers and plastic tarpaulins are packed today and ready to be shipped to cyclone affected areas in Fiji©UNICEF Pacific

Emergency health and midwifery kits, including basic drugs, medical supplies and equipment, are ready to be distributed to those most in need. 

UNICEF is also ready to support communities by providing tents, and basic supplies to support learning needs and help children to regain a sense of normalcy as soon as possible after the disaster. 

The Government of Fiji has declared Tropical Cyclone Yasa as a natural disaster for the entire country. Reaching those in need is especially challenging due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is hindering the movement of people and supplies.  

This is yet another devastating blow for the people of Fiji. In April this year, Tropical Cyclone Harold tore through Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, killing dozens of people and causing widespread destruction to homes, food crops and water infrastructure. 

Despite a global pandemic and travel restrictions, UNICEF was there. Our teams airlifted more than 25 tonnes of life-saving supplies, such as hygiene kits and tents, to support children and families in Fiji and Vanuatu.  

Houses in a village in Fiji destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Yasa. The full extent of the damage is still being determined. ©Inny Sua Masurogo

Cyclone Yasa will be no different, we will not stop until every child and family are safe. 

During a crisis, UNICEF can ship life-saving supplies almost anywhere within 48 hours, thanks to our global supply chain and local presence in more than 190 countries and territories. 

>> Learn more about our work in emergencies  

This page will be updated as more information becomes available. It was last updated on 21/12/2020