COVID-19 effect- Help in times of need

Sashi Kiran, Ajay Bhai Amrit & Shamima Ali at the COVID-19 Response Centre launch. Picture: SUPPLIED

Dear readers, where to start, I decided to drive around the Island of Viti Levu with a vehicle full of provisions this week and see for myself, what the situation was like for our brothers and sisters in the Western part of the Island.

I was deeply shocked to see that, what I had already envisioned was even worse than I expected. The pandemic of COVID-19 has almost decimated 100 per cent of the tourism industry and also the thousands of businesses and individuals who rely on this sector in so many capacities.

The city of Suva and Nadi Town are literally like two different countries, whereas in Suva it is relatively busy and buzzing with activity, in Nadi – usually a hotbed of hustle and bustle – has been reduced to a dusty ghost town with little activity and movement within the town.

Indeed Nadi and Lautoka have been impacted quite badly with reduced shop opening hours and some shops shut permanently. All tourism related businesses are almost completely shut full-time and Denerau Island has become deserted with little movement.

Lautoka City at 3pm on a
Wednesday afternoon.

Regardless of this, there does seem to be a glimmer of hope as local NGOs from a wide spectrum of society have had to step up and become saviors to so many.

Like free lunches provided by so many kind school management boards like TISI, Gujarat Education Society and so many others Fiji wide, enabling children to at least attend school and thus carry on their all important education studies.

Organisations like FRIEND assisting with backyard farming and livelihood training which will support grass roots citizens across a wide spectrum of society to be more self sufficient going forward.

Not forgetting organisations such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre led by Ms Shamima Ali and Fiji Women’s Rights Movement steered by Nalini Singh and so many more that are inundated with requests for help and forming alliances with like minded groups to assist.

There are so many NGO agencies helping in the background such as Corona, International Woman’s Association, Rotary Clubs, Salvation Army, Lifeline Fiji, Solo Mums project and the list goes on with way too many to name.

It is certainly heart warming to see so many NGOs and individuals helping and assisting when and where they can. If ever the time was to give a helping hand it is now, not tomorrow, next week or even next year.

I am sure the NGOs are not going to get it right 100 per cent of the time, and like all of us they are only human, who need to prioritise their assistance as they are flooded with requests.

The good news is Fiji wide citizens are showing a level of compassion and empathy that has been very encouraging and heartening. This great work carried out by these organisations and also caring individuals is now making the NGOs the backbone of the nation during this critical time.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation do what they can, but with the rising unemployment figures and sharp increase in poverty, it is an uphill battle.

We have seen so many individuals reaching out to assist strangers during this hard time and as a nation we all need to join hands and help where we can. This trip certainly was an eye opener for me.

As much as I want to be optimistic let’s not deceive ourselves here, we are in a very bad situation and it will only get worse before it gets better.

I do believe judging from all indications and reports that the tourism sector is not going to recover in the next upcoming few months. I also think reluctantly authorities have to accept and plan for this accordingly like other countries have.

Lautoka City once thriving now businesses are struggling. Picture: SUPPLIED

With respect may I suggest a free meal service can be set up temporarily in strategic areas Fiji wide where men, women and children can get a good wholesome meal for themselves and their families. It wouldn’t cost the authorities much and also meals can consist of rice, dhal and a vegetable curry with a drink for example.

This would alleviate a lot of families and their loved ones who are struggling at this time to even put groceries on the table, and with the vast government machinery in place it would be relatively easy to implement.

The need is immense with medical services, counseling, retraining, re-employment all needing to be looked at, but a free meal service is a small start for our beloved citizens who are really struggling at present.

Finally as Fiji Day approaches, I am sure it will be hard to celebrate this occasion for anyone and if there is going to be any festivities.

May I humbly suggest that the West is where it needs to be held with assistance and aid for those who need it, and from what I can see unfortunately there will be plenty of assistance and aid needed.

  • Ajay Bhai Amrit is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are his and does not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.


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