Editorial comment – Cry for the children

Now that we are free of COVID-19, focus must shift to ensuring things stay that way.

It is now critical.

The revelation that children in 30 informal settlements in Lami are going without meals as families struggle to provide food on the table after breadwinners were laid off because of COVID-19 is a major concern.

Lami District Council of Social Services disaster risk reduction officer Jone Tuilau revealed this during a community budget submission drafting workshop.

It was organised by the Fiji Council of Social Services at the Nataleira Eco Lodge, Tailevu, last week.

Mr Tuilau said the plight of the families was made known to them during a COVID-19 impact assessment in 30 informal settlements in the area. He said it was an emotional scene to see empty cupboards.

“Some families go quiet and get very emotional when we ask them if they have had food.”

Most of the families, he said, had to cut down meals in a day because the breadwinners were laid off due to COVID-19.

“It’s even more sad because children are suffering and some families have more than 10 people.”

Mr Tuilau said the situation for most families in the area was dire, they had no work and found it very difficult to plant because of lack of space in the squatter settlements.

This isn’t a report that is confined to informal settlements either.

The fact that there have been massive job losses, reduction in hours and forced leave without pay means more people are financially impacted.

They are unable to provide appropriately for their loved ones.

That is tough on the mind, on the spirit and dampens confidence and enthusiasm.

We’ve just come off positive news about Fiji being COVID-19 free.

We have a challenge to maintain the status quo.

That means adhering strictly to social distancing rules.

We can’t afford a second wave as many nations around the world are starting to experience.

That would be like a killer blow.

It does provide us the impetus to be assertive in how we address this fight.

With the virus now on the backburner in Fiji so to speak, the powers that be have the massive undertaking to ensure those arriving into our country are appropriately dealt with, and accommodated.

That means enforcing strict border controls and quarantine processes.

It means been extremely vigilant at our borders. We realise the need for economic revival and survival.

But there obviously are factors that must be weighed against these issues.

The decision makers have their work cut out.

There are people on the ground who are stretched to the limit of their ability to sustain themselves. Some are already been stretched thin.

People are screaming for help.

The reality is that things certainly aren’t going to improve any time soon.

The world ultimately needs a vaccine to return to some semblance of order.

For Fijians, we must unite to keep the virus at bay.

We must make social distancing rules part of the new normal.

Then we must hope that we find favour in certain quarters to enable us to engage in international talks that are good for our economy.

We must control what we can.

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