Two months after cyclone, Fiji needs aid to stave off hunger, disease: U.N.

A remote Fijian village is photographed from the air during a surveillance flight conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force following Cyclone Winston on February 21, 2016. REUTERS/NZ Defence Force/Handout via Reuters/Files

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two months after being struck by a powerful cyclone, Fiji needs urgent assistance to plant crops and rebuild homes, the United Nations said, calling for international support to reduce the risks of food shortages and disease. Cyclone Winston, the worst storm recorded in the southern hemisphere, hit Fiji in February, killing 43 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. The United Nations said Winston had destroyed crops and more than 31,000 homes, and that flooding in recent weeks had washed away many crops planted after the cyclone. "As planning begins for longer-term recovery and reconstruction, it is important to emphasize that humanitarian efforts must continue, particularly in locations hit by both the cyclone and subsequent flooding," U.N. resident coordinator Osnat Lubrani said in a statement. Urgent needs include distribution of agricultural supplies, construction of shelters and toilets, mosquito control and surveillance to stop the spread of disease, and psychosocial support, she said. "Our work is far from over. There is an acute need for the distribution of more seeds and seedlings to kick-start food production in areas hit by the cyclone and floods. This is vital to reducing the risk of food insecurity over the months ahead." It is also vital to train people to build stronger, safer houses, she said, noting that "even small donations from the international community can make a huge difference". Australia said this week it would more than double its post-cyclone emergency aid to Fiji, pledging A$20 million ($16 million) to help it rebuild infrastructure and prepare for future disasters. The new aid adds to the A$15 million ($12 million) Australia has already given Fiji since the disaster. (Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories)