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Not all countries had Jobkeeper

25 July 2022, Impact of Our Work

Stitching a safety net for Fijians impacted by COVID-19 

“It was a very big help in my life especially when I had nothing,” says Kiniviliame, reflecting on how a cash transfer from Save the Children allowed him to feed his family during the pandemic. 
     
Kiniviliame is a single dad to five children, all under 12. They live together in one room in a public housing block on the outskirts of Suva, Fiji’s capital. 

The father had worked as a bartender before the pandemic. “When COVID-19 hit, we had to close down the nightclub,” Kiniviliame says. “Up until today there is nowhere else, and I am still looking for work,” he explains. “I have dropped my application everywhere, but no one has approved it.”

Kiniviliame and his children are some of the countless Fijians who fell through the gaps when COVID-19 hit. Given there is almost no social welfare system in Fiji, people who couldn’t work during the pandemic simply had no income. 

The pressures of the pandemic also took their toll at home. Becoming emotional, Kiniviliame says, “When I became unemployed, that’s when my family broke up.” 

The single dad has found it incredibly difficult to provide for his children since he lost work.

The struggle that we face every day is that we have no food at home.

Kiniviliame


Kiniviliame, a single father to five children, lost his job when the pandemic hit Fiji.

Mobile money to make ends meet

Unlike in in Australia, JobKeeper payments weren’t available to Fijian families, many who found themselves in desperate need during the pandemic. 

With the help of a generous philanthropic donor, Save the Children has provided emergency cash transfers to Fijians. These three, monthly payments of $130AUD helped families like Kiniviliame’s weather some of the darkest days of the pandemic, when lockdowns made work impossible. 

Kiniviliame learnt about the project from a neighbour. He was grateful to receive his first payment in November last year via a remote mobile transfer. 

He remembers the moment clearly. “The night I received the text message - to tell you the truth, at home we had nothing at all,” he explains, describing how the family were completely out of food. “My water and electricity bills were piled up,” he adds.  

“I told the children that we had a blessing,” Kiniviliame remembers. “The next day we went out to buy things that we did not have at home, especially the basic needs for every day,” he says.

I took that $200FJD to do shopping for my family. I paid for my bills as well.

Kiniviliame


Kiniviliame used the cash transfers he received from Save the Children
to purchase food and school supplies for his five children.

More than money

When the second payment came through, Kiniviliame bought school supplies for his children. 

Each child received a backpack and stationery so they could go back to school after the Christmas break. The bags are neatly hanging on the wall of the otherwise bare room when we speak to the father. 

Reflecting on the impact the payments have had on his life, Kiniviliame says “I see that there's been a very big impact on my children. Because for me - from what I see - I cannot provide for them. And when the assistance from Save the Children came through it really helped them, especially to eat every day.” 

Kiniviliame is grateful for the support he received. “I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much to Save the Children in Fiji and Australia for thinking of single parent families like mine,” he says.  

Watch the video below to hear the father of five describe the impact the project had on his children: 

COVID-19’s long tail

Save the Children has provided cash transfers to over 39,000 families in Fiji – over 22% of the entire population.

Our research shows that 85% of households we asked spent their money on food and other basic needs and 49% of households put the money towards their children’s education. 

As waves of new COVID-19 variants continue to sweep Fiji and cost of living soars, locals are grappling with an economy in crisis. Experts predict recovery could take up to a decade. 

Kiniviliame remains hopeful for the future and is determined to make ends meet for his five children. “My plan for now - well, if the assistance is extended, I will start my own small business to help us with our day-to-day life,” he says.  

Cash is the most efficient and effective way to empower emergency-affected communities – and this disaster isn’t over yet. We know cash works, and with more support, we can provide a safety net for countless more vulnerable families like Kiniviliame’s in Fiji, and right around the Pacific.


A public housing commission block on the outskirts of Suva, where families pay subsidised rent.

 

  

This project was funded by a generous philanthropic donor, with support from the Australian Government and our partners. 

Photos: Katharina Glynne/Save the Children.

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