Youths clear debris in Koro and regain strength for recoveryApr 18, 2016
“This program helps youth and communities come together as one. It connects us and gives us an edge. We are happy to be part of the rebuilding process for our villages”.
These were the words of Adi Komaivai, from Naqaidamu village in Koro, which was severely devastated by Cyclone Winston on February 20 this year.
Adi Komaivai, a former Olympic weightlifter, is one of the 129 youths in Koro that engaged in debris removal in four villages including Nasau, Naqaidamu, Sinuvaca and Namacu, through the Cash-for-Work programme.
As part of its response to cyclone Winston, UNDP reallocated funds from its programmes to better address the urgent needs on the affected population. In Koro Island, UNDP reprogrammed FJ $100,000 and, together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, started a Cash-for-Work programme for up to 300 youths of the most affected villages: they will help safely remove the debris in their communities, paving the way to reconstruction, and will receive a cash payment that will enable them to support their families.
Some parts of the collected debris, concrete bricks, timber and sheets of corrugated iron, have been reused for paving the road, building breakwaters along the beach, and others were disposed safely, guided by a UNDP debris management specialist.
Merani Tuitubou from Nasau said, “The best part of the programme was that we worked together as youth. We saw people became more hopeful and we felt youths can make a difference”.
Finau Naitini and Losena Waqa from Namacu village, also participated in the debris clearance work.
“We used to weave mats but our pandanus plants were all destroyed by the Cyclone. We were still able to contribute to our village through this Cash-for-Work programme,” said Ms Naitini.
“We felt encouraged to move forward by being part of this programme. We have cleared a lot of debris and we can take more care of the pandanus we have just replanted,” said Ms Waqa.
The first phase of the Cash-for-Work programme is the debris clearance, enabling villagers to rebuild or repair damaged infrastructures, businesses or markets as well as access to farm lands. In the second phase, youths will engage in livelihood recovery work focusing on rehabilitating farming in the villages.
Akiko Fujii, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Pacific Office said, “We wish to continue to support them beyond the immediate debris clearing in those areas for longer term and sustainable recovery such as appropriate waste management, recycling, composting and contributing better to agriculture and other livelihoods recovery. We, in partnership with Fiji Government, are trying to gather more support for this”.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Permanent Secretary, Alison Burchell said “The debris clearance is going well and we are pleased with the work undertaken by the youths so far. They have been positive and enthusiastic and we are confident that the skills they have learned will assist greatly in terms of ensuring a level of self-sufficiency for any future disaster and finally to contribute to economic recovery in a sustainable way.”
“We are indeed thankful to the UNDP and European Union for this wonderful partnership, as well as to the youth clubs, Commissioner and his colleagues and staff from the Ministry who have made this happen. We will now use the experience from the first four villages as we move on to the next four, which were hit by the Cyclone and Tidal waves,” Ms Burchell added.
UNDP, together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, has been supporting programmes aimed at development of Fijian youths since 2012. Funding for engaging the youths through Cash-for-Work for early recovery efforts was made available by reallocating resources from two UNDP projects: the Fiji Youth Strengthening Project, and Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Fiji Initiative (SCEFI, funded by the European Union).