Fiji Gender, Disability and Inclusion Analysis: COVID-19 and TC Harold

Anna Cowley

The COVID-19 pandemic declared by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020 is presenting tremendous challenges globally due to its devastating impacts. While Fiji only had 18 cases of COVID-19, all of whom have recovered, the economic and social outcomes are significant and will be felt for years to come. The closure of international borders led to visitor arrivals contracting significantly by 43.5 percent up to April1 and the economy is projected to decline by 4.9% in 2020 under COVID-19.

The impacts will extend to government revenue, which is expected to decrease by almost 50% in the next financial year, as well as to remittances and tourism earnings, trade and production, domestic demand, employment, poverty and health. In the tourism sector alone, over 40,000 workers, one-third of whom are women, have been affected by mass layoffs and reduced hours. Their employment represented 35.5 percent of total employment in Fiji, with further impacts for their families and communities.

In addition to the pandemic, Fiji was also struck by Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold on 08 April, causing States of Natural Disaster to be declared for COVID-19 and for TC Harold within the same week. Although Fiji is used to cyclones, prevention and movement restriction measures in place for COVID-19 made it difficult to respond to the trail of destruction left by the Category 4 cyclone. A total of 250 evacuation centres were opened in all four divisions and around 10,000 people were displaced.

Two weeks later on 21 April, 1,310 people were still sheltering in 105 evacuation centres in the Eastern and Central divisions with the majority of them (1,116) in 92 evacuation centres in the Eastern Division. Data regarding people with disabilities who were affected by the cyclone has not been reported. While the multiple impacts of COVID-19 and TC Harold are significant, they follow and compound the impacts of two Category 2 cyclones – TC Sarai in late December 2019 and TC Tino in mid- January 2020 – which had previously affected agriculture and other sectors. This poses extra challenges for Fiji’s development as cyclones and flood losses have been estimated to translate into an average of 25,700 people being pushed into poverty every year in Fiji.

Research Type(s)
Report – Peer reviewed
Submitted by Shirleen Ali
April 30, 2021
Published in

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