NZ appeal calls for support to feed Fijian families

Save the Children New Zealand has launched an emergency appeal to help feed hundreds of Fijian families decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Fiji, Save the Children is providing grocery packs to feed hundreds of children whose families' incomes have been impacted.

The Fiji government has been urged to form a clear strategy on social support for families during the outbreak.

The call comes as a surge in food shortages has Fiji's charities run off their feet, while health authorities struggle to contain the spread of the virus on the main island Viti Levu.

There are now over 600 active cases since the latest outbreak began in April.

This week, Save the Children Fiji delivered grocery packs containing much-needed food supplies, soap, surgical masks, nappies and sanitary pads to around 120 families in need in the Suva-Nausori corridor.

Save the Children NZ chief executive Heidi Coetzee said this is aimed at helping single parents, families with young children, families who have children with special needs and grandparents looking after their grandchildren.

She said the organisation has had more than 1,000 requests for assistance, and with limited supplies, Save the Children New Zealand has launched an appeal to help reach more families in need.

Coetzee said Fiji, still recovering from last year's major tropical cyclones, has been hit on a second front with the pandemic.

"Children are starving as families and communities struggle to find enough food to survive and this is the fastest way to reach those in need," Coetzee said.

"We all understand the devastating impact of this deadly disease, and we're asking New Zealanders who have the means to please give to this appeal.

"These grocery packs will help save the lives of many children and help protect a generation for Fiji's future rebuild."

Save the Children hopes to raise enough funding to reach the hundreds of families currently on the wait list for grocery packs.

The organisation's Fiji head Shairana Ali said with the densely populated areas under lockdown for weeks, thousands of families had not been able to work and earn.

"Many families have told us they are exhausted," Ali said.

"Whatever little savings they had are gone and they are turning to organisations like Save the Children."

The grocery packs will support a family for around two weeks, she said.

"Many parents are going hungry to stretch out whatever little food they have to be able to feed their children.

"Shelves are empty in kitchens and tensions are high in homes unable to provide for children's basic needs."

As of Friday morning, the appeal had raised $NZ36,000, according to Coetzee.

That will help 100 more families in dire need, she said with the target $NZ50,000.

Coetzee is delighted with the incredible generosity shown by New Zealanders.

But she adds there is still a way to go.

"Every day we are contacting by more families in dire need.

"The grocery packs provide immediate help to many who are going hungry after losing their incomes as a result of the lockdowns.

"The situation in Fiji is getting worse. We're calling on New Zealanders who can give to please support this emergency appeal."