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Help for those hit hardest by Cyclone Winston

From putting up a tent to offering a sympathetic ear, Fiji Red Cross teams are doing all they can to help people cope in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

Wednesday March 23, 2016

Fiji grandmother receives aid from Red Cross after cyclone
Virisila Marama and her grandson watch while Red Cross volunteers put up a tent for them to sleep in. Photo: IFRC/Corinne Ambler

Virisila Marama was in the middle of a pile of laundry when a call from her neighbour made her drop everything.  

The 86-year-old grandmother scrambled under a barbed wire fence and raced onto the muddy road to wave down the Fiji Red Cross truck.  

When the Red Cross team reached Virisila, she clutched the hand of one of the young volunteers, tears streaming down her face.  

 "When I saw the truck I was so relieved," she told him. "I'm crying because I'm very happy to see you."  

A month ago, Cyclone Winston tore Virisila's home apart, like so many others in the remote village of Serea on the east coast of Viti Levu.  

As soon as they arrived in Serea, members of the Red Cross team were putting up a tent for Virisila and her grandchildren to sleep in. Others were stacking relief items in her ruined home: a shelter toolkit, clothes, blankets and sheets, mosquito repellent and personal hygiene items.  

It's been a  long and hard month since Cyclone Winston cut a swathe through Fiji. Red Cross aid has reached almost 40,000 people - but the damage was so great that over 131,000 people need assistance.  

"We had pre-positioned stocks around Fiji, which helped in the first few days, but more is needed. We hope by the end of April we will have reached all of the worst-hit families," says Eseroma Ledua, operations manager for Fiji Red Cross.  

The Red Cross relief effort aims to help those most affected to protect their health and dignity - whether through tarpaulins and tools to put a roof over their heads, soap and toothpaste to maintain hygiene, or cooking items to help family life return to normal.  

"Our priority for the next month is shelter, but we are also concentrating on ensuring communities have clean water and adequate sanitation," Eseroma explains.  

People's emotional health is just as vital as their physical health. Fiji Red Cross volunteers are being trained to offer emotional support to affected people in their own communities.  

"What they have been through is huge. They are still in shock and the enormity and trauma of the disaster is still sinking in," Eseroma says. "Our volunteers are a sympathetic ear, and often that is all people need - someone to talk to."  

Please help with a tax-deductible donation to the Tropical Cyclone Winston Appeal.