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STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, RURAL AND MARITIME DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT ON THE SIGNING CEREMONY OF THE LETTER OF UNDERTSANDING BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF FIJI AND WORLD FOOD PROGRAM, MONDAY 11TH APRIL, LEVEL 2, KNOLLY STREET BUILDING.

 
The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Honorable Rosy Akbar,

The Head of the United Nations World Food Program Pacific Office & Fiji Regional Office, Mr. Florent Chané,

 Ladies and Gentlemen.

 
A very good morning to you all.

On 4th March 2016 the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture made a request for relief assistance for the rehabilitation of Fijian people severely affected by TC Winston to Mr. David Kaatrud, the Regional Director for World Food Program, Asia and Pacific.

We are here this morning, at least a month later, to witness the realization of that request for the signing ceremony of the Letter of Understanding (LOU) between the Fijian government and World Food Program for the joint implementation of a targeted cash-based transfer program to assist the vulnerable populations in the 12 priority areas affected by tropical cyclone Winston.

Through that request and Government partnership with World Food Program we were able to mobilize donor support and raise 4.6 million Fijian dollars to provide assistance to 71,700 vulnerable people. On that note I am sincerely honored to be here this morning and be part of this auspicious occasion.

The Fijian government has already spent approximately 8.4 million Fijian dollars for relief assistance for the first 30 days of state of national disaster. The second phase of assistance is currently underway. The relief assistance has been complemented by development partners, NGOs, private sectors and individuals. The WFP targeted cash-based transfer program will complement relief assistance to the vulnerable people assisted through the Department of Social Welfare who live in the 12 priority areas affected by tropical cyclone Winston.

Tropical cyclone Winston has left behind a trail of death, misery and destruction to some Fijians. For the Agriculture sector alone, preliminary assessments place damage and losses to crops, livestock and infrastructure at around 208 million Fijian dollars. This is very much likely to increase after the finalization of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment.

Last week torrential rain in many places triggered widespread flooding, including Sigatoka, Nadi, Ba, Rakiraki and Naitasiri. Whilst we were spared the full force of cyclone Zena our ‘Salad Bowl’ – the Sigatoka Valley which produces most of our export produces was flooded too. The impact of this will further compound the prices of agricultural produce in the market which most vulnerable people consume. These vulnerable people will breathe a sigh of relief through this World Food Program assistance.

Building on existing robust welfare payment systems that the Fijian government has, the World Food Program will provide cash top-ups for May and June to allow cyclone survivors to buy food while they rebuild their lives. The World Food Program in partnership with Government will provide assistance to 71,700 vulnerable people affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston. An additional 150 dollars Fijian top up will be provided to 12,761 households in the 12 affected areas who are recipients of food voucher under the Poverty Benefit Scheme and Care & Protection Allowance. This is in addition to the 50 dollars Fijian that the government provides. Further to this a 50 dollars Fijian top up will be given to 7,895 recipients of the Social Pension Scheme food voucher.

The World Food Program will contribute 4.6 million Fijian dollars to the Fijian Government. These funds come from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and in particular generous donors namely the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Food for Peace and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

My Ministry as the Executing Agency for the World Food Program Relief Assistance will act as the channel of communication between Government and WFP. We shall have oversight responsibilities for the activities undertaken by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation who will be the Implementing Agency.

I would like to assure you that the funds provided by WFP will be properly received, accounted for and transferred to the WFP Beneficiaries. I will quote the two words the Honorable Prime Minister has used many times before. “Integrity and Credibility”. They are the cornerstones of our rebuilding effort.

Please extend my heartfelt appreciation to Mr. David Kaatrud, the Regional Director for World Food Program, Asia and Pacific for this relief assistance. The Fijian Government is ready to stand with World Food Program to prepare for and respond to future emergencies. I would also like to personally thank Mr. Peter Guest and his World Food Program Mission Team for facilitating this assistance.

Last but not least, I wish to acknowledge the work Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Information and Communication and Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will be working with the Ministry of Rural and Maritime and National Disaster Management to implement the WFP targeted cash-based transfer program.

 

Vinaka vakalevu.