Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and disaster response agencies in Fiji recently gathered for a three-day Disaster Risk Management (DRM) workshop in Nadi in the lead-up to the cyclone season.
The workshop was convened by the Australian aid-funded Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP), managed by Coffey, bringing CSOs, government, donor and humanitarian agencies together to collaborate on disaster risk management.
‘This workshop provides solution-based forum for government, civil society organisations and faith-based groups to freely exchange information, successes and challenges and ultimately learn from each other in order to enhance coordination in the ways communities are equipped to prepare for and respond to disasters in Fiji,’ said FCDP Team Leader Michael Brownjohn.
CSOs acknowledged their vital role in disaster preparedness and response, as their direct community links enable them to be first responders post-disaster and the most accessible source of assistance in rural and remote areas.
However, disaster management approaches have been challenged by overlapping services and a lack of coordination between CSOs, faith-based organisations, and government agencies.
"We all know there are coordination issues, however when it comes to disasters, we all have one goal in mind and that is to minimise, to the best of our collective ability, harm to people and property," Mr Brownjohn added.
For Bianca Murray of the Access to Quality Education Program, an Australian aid initiative supporting primary schools in Fiji’s poorest communities, the concern is minimising disruption to students’ schooling.
"It’s about normalising the situation as quickly as possible for those of us who work with communities and children, and getting the children back to school as soon as possible."