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Habitat for Humanity Fiji

Country Profile

Habitat for Humanity started working in Fiji in 1991. Since then, Habitat has helped over 1,000 families to build homes and hope through partnerships with governments, bilateral and non-profit organizations and international volunteers. Habitat’s work goes beyond construction of homes. HFH Fiji works on a range of projects throughout the country including disaster prevention and recovery, water and sanitation, and disabled access housing projects.

Housing needs in Fiji

An estimated 140,000 people currently live in substandard housing conditions, and the number is on the rise. Fiji is expected to need a total of more than 30,000 houses over the next 15 years. Poverty and inequality continue to be a challenge. According to official statistics, 31 percent of the population lives in poverty though the local social services council has put the figure at 60 percent or half a million people. The rising cost of living and the category four Cyclone Tomas in March 2010 increased the poor’s vulnerability, said Fiji’s Council of Social Services. The poorest households also lack piped water, adequate sanitation, electricity or rubbish disposal. The conventional means of building a home can cost 40,000 to 50,000 Fiji dollars or more (US$21,600 to US$27,000). As such, the state Fiji Housing Authority has found that the formal housing market caters only to upper income groups.

How Habitat for Humanity works in Fiji
Habitat for Humanity’s activities in Fiji range from new house constructions to helping families rebuild after cyclones and other disasters to improving water and sanitation access in various communities. To meet the housing needs of low-income families, HFH Fiji helps to build simple, two-bedroom homes which cost about 20,000 Fiji dollars, or US$11,000, each. Habitat homes are typically built with a combination of locally supplied timber, concrete, and metal roofing. Low-income families contribute their own labor to build their new homes and make monthly repayments for the cost of their houses. Their repayments help Habitat to build more houses for other poor families.

International volunteers
HFH Fiji hosts up to 20 Global Village teams each year. The teams come from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and USA. The volunteers provide essential labor and financial assistance to families in need so that they can live in their own decent, safe, affordable home.

HFH Fiji has received funding support from partners such as the New Zealand Aid Programme, AusAID, the US Embassy and the Japanese Embassy in the capital Suva, and UNICEF. HFH New Zealand also sent 34 volunteers to help in Habitat’s post-Cyclone Tomas response.

Meet a Habitat family
Atama Raqili lives on Vanua Levu island with his family of 10. His old house was badly damaged after Cyclone Tomas hit Fiji in March 2010. Atama and his family lived in a temporary shelter which had corrugated metal walls and an earth floor but no windows.

The 45-year-old fisherman and farmer was among the 46 families whose homes were rebuilt by HFH Fiji. Funding for the project came from the New Zealand Aid Programme, the Bank of the South Pacific and Rotary Club of Lautoka. The Fiji government also supported Habitat’s response by providing the names of beneficiaries.

Atama helped to build his new house together with his family members and other villagers. “We learned a lot of good techniques in carpentry which included how to maintain our home.”

Life is looking up for Atama, who makes about 80 Fiji dollars (US$43) a month from fishing and farming. “Our new Habitat home is much stronger and my family feels safe and secure.”

Habitat Highlights

  • April 2011: HFH Fiji completed a cyclone response project with a US$538,000 grant from the New Zealand Aid Programme, the New Zealand Government’s international aid and development program. With support from the Fiji government, Habitat rebuilt 46 homes that were destroyed by March 2010’s Cyclone Tomas on Vanua Levu island. Other donors included Bank of the South Pacific and Rotary Club of Lautoka.
  • February 2011: Habitat repaired four schools which were damaged by Cyclone Tomas with over US$71,000 funding from UNICEF. This was the first time that HFH Fiji had funding support from a UN agency.
  • January 2011: HFH Fiji built a wheelchair-friendly house in Lami, northwest of the capital Suva. Funding came from Lions Club District 202k and Lloyd Morgan Lions Clubs Charitable Trust of New Zealand.
  • December 2010: Habitat completed its first community water projects in Tailevu province, Fiji. The projects in Nakorovou village and Lawaki village on Tailevu are funded by the Australian and Japanese governments respectively. Since then, HFH Fiji has completed several water projects, improving the lives of more than 1,100 people in communities in Tailevu, Nadroga, Naitasiri and Ra.

Country Facts
883,125 (July 2011 est.)
Land area:
18,274 sq. km.
Ethnic groups
: Fijian 57.3% (predominantly Melanesian with a Polynesian admixture), Indian 37.6%, Rotuman 1.2%, other 3.9% (European, other Pacific Islanders, Chinese) (2007 census)
Christian 64.5% (Methodist 34.6%, Roman Catholic 9.1%, Assembly of God 5.7%, Seventh Day Adventist 3.9%, Anglican 0.8%, other 10.4%), Hindu 27.9%, Muslim 6.3%, Sikh 0.3%, other or unspecified 0.3%, none 0.7% (2007 census)
English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani
93.7% (2003 census)
52% (2010)
Population Below National Poverty Line: 31% (2009)
Source: CIA World Factbook, World Bank