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22 February, 2016

Thousands of children affected by Cyclone Winston in Fiji could face prolonged stays in evacuation centres, warns Save the Children

As vital aid reaches communities devastated by Cyclone Winston, thousands of Fijians are left stranded in evacuation centres with little idea about when they will return home.

Entire villages have been flattened by the mega storm, which packed winds of up to 325km/h and is widely regarded as the strongest storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Save the Children says that along with meeting immediate needs like food, water and shelter, the wellbeing of vulnerable children in evacuation centres must be prioritised.

“There are more than 80 evacuation centres still operating across the country in schools and other community buildings, and some are hosting as many as 300 children.

“There is a very real need for child protection services in these evacuation centres to ensure the wellbeing of children.”

Part of Save the Children’s emergency response will include setting up “child friendly spaces” at evacuation centres, which will provide children with a safe place to be engaged in educational play with other children, while giving parents a much-needed opportunity to go out and assess the damage.

At the same time, the death toll from Cyclone Winston continues to mount with 10 people confirmed to have died so far.

“This is an enormous tragedy in Fiji. Our nation has never faced anything like this before, and we still don’t know the full extent of the storm’s impact,” Ms Low-McKenzie said.

“But what we do know is that the recovery process will take many, many months as families who have lost their homes and livelihoods slowly rebuild. Aid agencies like Save the Children will be doing our best to support these families.”

Save the Children has been working in Fiji since 1974 providing education and children protection services. The aid agency has stockpiled emergency supplies to ensure children can return to school as soon as possible. This includes school bags, classroom kits and child friendly spaces kits for evacuation centres if schools are damaged.

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