CSOs COVID19 response alliance urges for bipartisan approach in pandemic response

Fiji’s CSO Alliance for COVID-19 Humanitarian Response calls for a bipartisan approach in the country’s coronavirus response.

In a statement released today, the group urged the Fijian Government to “soothe the pain of the people” by fronting up to explain their moving forward-plans which the group believes will be most effective if they include opposition leaders, CSOs, NGOs, experts, traditional leaders and an expert women’s safety advisor on the Incident Management Team (IMT).

“We are all in this together, so let us find solutions together,” the CSO group said. “It is all our responsibility. This is not the time for individual aggrandizement and settling personal grudges. So let us forget our differences and come together as Fijians.”

The group also called for more engagement from majority of the cabinet ministers who they have described as “strangely silent” as COVID19 cases in Fiji are rising.

In the same statement, the group said while it understands that the Permanent Secretary for Health has legislative powers under the Public Health Act, the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister who are elected by the people to govern and lead in times of a national crisis government can still “soothe the pain of the people.”

“The social and economic fallout from the pandemic, slowing economies and job losses will affect most of us for many months. We need a decisive plan of action of what the government is doing or will do immediately to alleviate the plight of our poor and less fortunate who have been hit the hardest. The people of Fiji are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and a deadly variant that is causing death, destruction, mayhem and permanently ruining livelihoods and families in many parts of the world, especially India,” Shamima Ali, Coordinator Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre said.

Nalini Singh, Executive Director of Fiji Women’s Rights Movement said as the government of the day, “it is imperative to uphold principles of transparency and accountability especially in these times of pandemic. Fijians need to be made aware of the action plans as we are all in this together.”

“Nasomo Village of Vatukoula is now into their 11th day of a state-ordered lockdown, with no movement and support and no information and where their main concern are nutritious food for their children and infants, and the plight of the elderly and single mothers,” said Susan Grey, Executive Director of femLINK PACIFIC.

“In Ba, daily phone calls are received by women community leaders requesting for food rations, as many of them are employed in Lautoka and Nadi, and are locked out of their areas of employment,” Grey added.

Rainbow Pride Fiji Chief Executive Officer, Isikeli Vulavou said that in times of national crisis the government needs to work together with CSOs.

“Members of the LGBTQI and sex-worker community in the Western Division have been bombarding the Rainbow Pride Foundation with requests for masks, food relief packs and asking why government is only providing food supplies for those in the Suva-Nausori corridor.  It is crucial that in times like this, the government works with the CSOs especially vulnerable and marginalised groups to help them make sensible democratic decisions and ensure that no one is left behind.”

FRIEND Executive Director Sashi Kiran said the poor and less fortunate, particularly in containment areas, need food, medicine and any monetary assistance, not only to put three meals daily for the family, but also to protect themselves from being totally vulnerable to the pandemic.

Kiran asks the government that with no food supplies for families placed in self-quarantine in many areas in Lautoka, how are they to feed themselves?

“The West has been in lockdown for over three weeks now. We urgently need social protection for the vulnerable and food rations. Government must take responsibility for people’s basic rights – providing food.

“We have families who have come from islands to attend events trapped in most places due to the last minute curfew and other restrictions and many are living in very unhygienic and compromised conditions,” Kiran said.

The Fiji CSO Alliance for COVID-19 Humanitarian Response is made up of 7 organisations working across different sectors in Fiji including Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND), Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), Social Empowerment and Education Programme (SEEP), femLINKpacific, Rainbow Pride Foundation (RPF) and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM)

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