Families served in 2016: 77
- Population: Over 915,000
- Urbanization: 53.7 percent live in cities
- Life expectancy: 72.7 years
- Unemployment rate: 8.8 percent
- Population living below poverty line: 31 percent
Source: World Factbook
Habitat for Humanity in Fiji
Habitat for Humanity started working in Fiji in 1991. Since then, Habitat has helped over 68,700 people to build homes and hope through partnerships with governments, bilateral and non-profit organizations and international volunteers. Habitat works on a range of projects throughout the country including disaster response and recovery through repairs and temporary housing when needed, construction or improvement of water and sanitation systems in rural and remote areas, and disabled access housing projects. In the financial year ended June 30, 2016, Habitat for Humanity Fiji has helped more than 3,140 families through disaster response, over 1,300 families in more than 45 communities through water and sanitation improvements and built over 900 new houses.
The housing need in Fiji
An estimated 140,000 people currently live in substandard housing conditions in informal settlements, and the number has increased by 5 percent from 2007 to 2012. Poverty and inequality continue to be a challenge. According to official statistics, 31 percent of the population lives in poverty. The rising cost of living and disasters such as 2016’s Cyclone Winston increased the poor’s vulnerability. The poorest households also lack piped water, adequate sanitation, electricity or rubbish disposal.
How Habitat addresses the need in Fiji
Habitat for Humanity’s activities in Fiji range from new house construction to helping families rebuild after cyclones and other disasters to improving water and sanitation access in various communities. 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.
Community water projects
Habitat for Humanity Fiji helps remote communities to gain access to reliable water supply with funding from various bilateral donors such as the European Union, Japanese Embassy and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Aid through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Since 2011, the Japanese government has donated over 500,000 Fijian dollars (about US$242,000) to Habitat for water, sanitation and hygiene projects. The European Union has contributed over 1 million Fijian dollars toward Habitat’s water projects which have helped more than 675 families in 27 rural communities. DFAT’s funding of over 1 million Fijian dollars enabled more than 4,300 families in close to 100 communities to have reliable access to water. Through its Community Water Program, Habitat trains communities to manage and conserve water resources and maintain water systems that have been installed.
Building resilient community projects
To help disaster-hit families get back on their feet, Habitat works with donors and partners to increase local communities’ resilience. More than 400 participants including women from close to 80 communities have received “Build Back Safer” training. Those who have been trained form a ready pool of skilled labor to assist other affected families build safer homes. About 100 houses were constructed with the support of United Nations Development Fund, the Australian and New Zealand Governments, International Organization for Migration, Shelter Cluster Fiji, the FIJI Water Foundation, Partner Housing Australasia and Habitat for Humanity Australia.
Habitat for Humanity Fiji forms part of the Pacific Task Force with Habitat Australia and Habitat New Zealand, helping families hit by disasters such as 2015’s Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. In responding to 2016’s Cyclone Winston, Habitat exceeded its target by helping over 7,000 affected families through the distribution of emergency shelter kits. In the recovery phase, programs include community training for water, sanitation and hygiene, cyclone retrofitting for homes, repairs of houses and water and sanitation facilities, and “Build Back Safer” training.
Under the Global Village program, Habitat hosts international volunteer builders who come from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and USA. A total of 317 Global Village volunteers from 22 teams built 27 homes in 2016 for families affected by Cyclone Winston. In the second year of its participation in the region-wide Habitat Young Leaders Build campaign, Habitat for Humanity Fiji rallied 183 supporters through activities such as a poster and sports competition, passing of the HYLB flag, post-cyclone reconstruction and working on a home for a disabled person.
Meet a Habitat family
Akrasha’s quiet confidence in the security of her Habitat house kept her through the ordeal of Cyclone Winston that struck Fiji on February 20, 2016. “It was a very scary night with the wind and rain coming down so forcefully. Despite what was happening outside, I knew that we would be safe because this house is strong,” said the 26-year-old housewife and mother of two. Her house in Nadari Ba, a four-hour drive from the capital Suva, also provided refuge to her parents-in-law and other relatives. Altogether, 11 people huddled in Akrasha’s house. The next morning, she learned that the houses of her father-in-law and brother-in-law were torn apart by the cyclone. Both Akrasha and her husband Mohammed are thankful that they survived the disaster.