UNICEF Pacific's Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Officer, Milika Nabulivula, has persevered on the ground with the first responder’s team through six natural disasters across the Pacific in just four short years.
While most of the world celebrated Christmas in 2020, Cyclone Yasa devastated the lives of over 90,000 Fijians, 30,000 of them children. Milika was among the first to head out and face the enormous task of helping the small island nation recover and build back.
Milika (fourth from right) and the first responder team getting ready to distribute emergency water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to the affected communities of the cyclone.
“My own brother in law’s home in Bua, Vanua Levu, was badly damaged during Tropical Cyclone Yasa. My family’s source of income – our small farm and livestock were all destroyed in just what felt like a blink of an eye.”
Despite still reeling from her own family’s loss, Milika wasted no time in travelling to the country’s most remote areas by boat and foot to make sure those most in need received essential WASH supplies. Without an urgent reply to the damaged water, sanitation, and hygiene services across the country, the likelihood of people getting sick from unsafe drinking water, open defecation, and not being able to wash their hands with soap and clean water was only going to grow.
A three year partnership between UNICEF and the Governments of Fiji and New Zealand has ensured we can continue supporting the recovery and resilience of kids, families and communities to cope with any future disasters and climate risks.
Two years went by and yet another Pacific nation was struck by disaster. On January 15th, Tonga was devastated by the largest eruption in 30 years, Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai, and the resulting tsunami. Communications, roads, homes, livelihoods and food crops were severely damaged while water supplies were contaminated from the thick ash fall.
Once again Milika found herself gearing up to face the aftermath of the terrible volcanic eruption and tsunami that upended the lives of over 35,000 Tongan kids.
COVID-19 border restrictions and broken lines of communication made it hard to gauge the full impact and needs of the situation. Though this was nothing Milika and her team couldn’t overcome.
After her team was given the green light to enter the country Milika spent the next four months ensuring kids and families received emergency care and supplies. She recently went back to ensure that continuous water and sanitation support is still being provided throughout the country. In the immediate aftermath of the eruption, UNICEF shipped 44 metric tons of humanitarian supplies to Tonga.
“Fieldwork is my home … At the end of the day, I know that my work is making an impact, making a difference, in the lives of people, especially the children.”
Heroes like Milika couldn’t make such a huge impact without the incredible support of donors and local partners. It’s our strong and experienced network that ensures we’re ready to act with prepositioned supplies and lifesaving services for those who need it most when an emergency strikes.
Deliver hope in an emergency - when kids need it most