Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most powerful cyclone to strike Fiji in recent time, cut a path of destruction across the country on 20 and 21 February 2016. The cyclone tracked west across the country, causing widespread damage in all four divisions – Eastern, Northern, Western and Central. It affected up to 350,000 people – equivalent to 40 % of Fiji’s population. A 30-day State of Natural Disaster was declared by the Government on 20 February 2016 and since then it has worked with the international community to address humanitarian response needs.
Since the end of February, UNESCO provided the Fijian authorities with assistance to undertake a rapid damage assessment of Levuka Historical Port Town, World Heritage site in the country. According to the assessment conducted by the National Trust of Fiji from 25 – 27 February 2016, the Town have sustained severe damages with five historical building completely destroyed, thirteen buildings still standing but roof completely destroyed, and some twenty buildings requiring minor repairs. With regard to Navala Village, the only traditional settlement that remains in the country, the rapid assessment carried out by the Indigenous Institute of Arts and Culture and the Provincial Office in Ba city shows some hundreds Fijian Bure style houses have been affected by the cyclone.
In mid-March 2016, the Government of Fiji requested UN and WB to undertake a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) following the cyclone Winston. The main objectives of the PDNA are to gather information on the impact and overall damage and loss caused by the cyclone in order to identify priority recovery needs and develop a recovery framework in order to mobilize resources required for recovery and reconstruction. Following the training on PDNA methodologies for government officials and other stakeholders, the PDNA has been officially launched at the meeting chaired by the National Disaster Controller, Permanent Secretary for Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management in Suva on 29 March 2016.
In light of the damages sustained by Fiji’s rich cultural heritage including its only World Heritage site, the Fiji government requested the assessment of the culture sector to be included in the PDNA. The PDNA on the culture sector will assess damages and losses in the following domains; i) built heritage and sites, ii) movable cultural properties and collections, iii) intangible cultural heritage, iv) repositories, iv) cultural goods and industry. This assessment will be conducted in close coordination with other sectors such as environment, agriculture, housing and tourism. The management team composed of the Department of Heritage and Arts under the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts and the Indigenous Institute of Language and Culture under the Ministry of Fiji Affairs has been established for the assessment on the culture sector. A national focal point has been designated for each of the above domains, representing at the same time of the key cultural institutions such as the Fiji Museum, the National Archives of Fiji, the National Trust of Fiji and the Fiji Arts Council. They are going to be assisted by the international experts from ICOMOS Australia, ICOMOS Japan, the Hokkaido University, SPC and UNESCO.
This PDNA on the culture sector will contribute to the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) that underlines the importance of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) of the culture sector and its integration in the national DRR plan. And it will be conducted taking into account the outcome of UNESCO Regional Conference on “Harmonizing Actions to Reduce Risks for Cultural Heritage in Asia and the Pacific held in Penang in December 2015.
A sector report will be prepared through desk study on baseline information, questionnaire, and field survey for data gathering that will be carried out in the coming two weeks. Interactions and coordination with other sectors such as environment, housing and tourism will play an important role in mainstreaming culture in the national DRR plan. Different sector reports will then be compiled in a global PDNA report which will present an overall picture of the damage and loss and short- and mid- and long-term recovery needs and strategy. This is the 2nd PDNA carried out following natural disaster in Fiji and is the first time the PDNA will include the assessment on culture.