“I know those who were really in need were assisted through this cash project.”
In March this year, Save the Children with partner Vodafone Fiji, reached household number 14,000 with a digital cash transfer. The mother from the home who received this payment didn’t quite understand why she was so special to us, but ultimately this payment meant that we had reached the number of people we had set out to support in communities devastated by COVID-19. And it felt great.
We’ve recently seen the Government of Fiji act quickly to deal with its first large outbreak of COVID-19 cases, but the pandemic had already impacted entire Fijian communities, as closed borders and no tourists devastated the country’s economy.
“Many people from Australia and New Zealand already know what a wonderful country Fiji is to holiday in, so they would understand that the pandemic has crippled our economy which is normally buoyed by tourism,” said Shairana Ali, CEO of Save the Children Fiji. “But closed borders have also impacted households, as remittance received from family members working overseas, at last count made up 5.2% of Fiji’s GDP. It’s an additional blow, that many people around the world don’t know about.”
Children will always be our number one priority. But when we started working with partners Fijian Council of Social Services and their District Councils of Social Services, to unearth the people who were the most vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID-19, we discovered that the most vulnerable people came from many different communities and age groups.
“We had established a vulnerability criterion which helped us to determine who would receive these payments, yet we were surprised at how diverse our list grew,” Ms. Ali said. “But because we are aiming to strengthen the broader economy, we know that money spent within communities is ultimately going to help children across the country.”
On Vanua Levu, one of the areas that was identified to be in desperate need was a small community made up of families of mixed ethnicities from Fiji and other countries across the Pacific. Most of the residents are unable to own land in Fiji. We partnered with the local council to ensure the cash voucher program was reaching the right people here. “We assisted people with disabilities, elderly, single headed households, and those who were directly impacted by COVID-19,” explained Mr Tabaileau, Advisory Councillor for the village and settlement.