Largest humanitarian cash transfer in Fiji’s history is saving lives amid COVID-19

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The largest forcible humanitarian transfer in Fiji’s history has been hailed as a huge success, with the Injection of 20 million dollars in the poorest 20% of the country enabling entire communities to retain their dignity despite the devastating effects of COVID-19.

Of the families who received funds through the program, 95% used the money for food, bills and their children’s education.

Save the Children Australia Acting CEO Mat Tinkler – whose organization orchestrated the ‘life-saving’ digital money program – explained that 27% of respondents spent money on water, 16% on fees medical products and a smaller part for cleaning products.

“Cash is the most effective way to help people in times of disaster, enabling them to make the best decisions based on their own circumstances,” Tinkler said in a press release. “We know that children are the hardest hit in any humanitarian crisis, and Fiji continues to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 today. This funding has enabled parents to continue caring for their children despite the difficulties.

Between December 2020 and June 2021, A$4.2 million was distributed to 16,000 families.

An additional $15.3 million was transferred during the second phase of the project, benefiting a total of 39,000 households.

The use of digital cash is a new development for Save the Children, which has a long history of using cash and vouchers to support people affected by various disasters around the world. The organization worked closely with Vodafone Fiji to make payments possible.

Maria, a 49-year-old single mother and mother of six, was just one of those supported by the program — which, with the help of local organizations like the Fiji Social Services Board — made efforts to identify and prioritize vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people living with disabilities.

Maria lost her job in the janitorial services industry when pandemic-induced closures were announced.

“Before I got the money, I never went to work, and my kids would ask me – ‘my school stuff, my school stuff?’ And I used to say to them, pray to God,” she said, before explaining how the funds have impacted her life and the lives of her children. “I was happy and I say to my children – this is the answer, this is the answer for us. I buy the food and the school things for my two children – the bag, the shoes and all the school things .

As of February 24, nearly 65,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Fiji.

With a population of less than 1 million, the Pacific nation has recorded 826 deaths and has a fully vaccinated rate of 69%.

According to a nonprofit public policy organization The Brookings Institute17% of the world’s population received at least one COVID-related cash payment between 2020 and 2021 in an effort by governments around the world to avoid total economic collapse and catastrophic levels of poverty.

An estimated 124 million people worldwide have been pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic.

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