9 March 2020, Lautoka, Fiji – On 7 March 2020, UN-Habitat was honored to host His Excellency the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr. Tijjani Muhammed-Bande, in Vunato and Nasoata communities in Lautoka, Fiji. The President completed his first official visit to Fiji from 5 through 8 March 2020 with a focus on key priorities including Climate Change, Youth and Women empowerment, and social inclusion.
The President visited two project sites of the Adaptation Fund (AF) project “Fiji Resilient Informal Settlements (FRIS)” where UN-Habitat, together with the Ministry of Housing and Community Development, the Ministry of Local Government, Lautoka City Council, and community members are implementing a 4-year programme to strengthen the resilience of informal settlements in Fiji.
The delegation was warmly welcomed by the UN-Habitat, the Ministry of Housing and Community Development, the Lautoka City Council, and community members.
During a brief introduction to the FRIS programme, the UN-Habitat Team Leader for Urban Climate Resilience Ms. Inga Korte emphasized that ‘informal settlements are the physical manifestation of urban poverty and key climate hotspots due to their location in very fragile sites’, and that ‘their residents have to play a key role in building sustainable and inclusive communities’.
Community members of Vunato village shared their personal stories about how climate change is impacting their lives and their daily struggles due to frequent floods, heavy rainfall, or extreme heat. Livai Saravi, a youth representative from Vunato, talked about the importance of education, and how difficult it is for many of his fellow youths from the settlement to go to school: ‘Education has not always been a priority in my community, which is why there is high unemployment. But I don’t want to be a statistic. I want to be a doctor to help my family and community live a better life’.
“Climate change is the challenge of the decade” said the President after listening to the key issues faced by residents of Vunato settlement. He committed to take their stories as far as he can.
The visit then proceeded with a walkthrough of the community where the delegation got first hand impressions on living conditions and day to day impacts of climate change in Vunato, including river floods, intense rainfall, and extreme temperatures. Project team members highlighted some of the most urgent issues that are being faced by the community, including poor sanitation, housing conditions, overcrowding and waste management.
For his final stop during his first mission to Fiji, the President then went to Nasoata settlement, a coastal community that is highly affected by sea level rise and coastal erosion. The community leader Mr. Tomasi called for urgent climate action, showing the PGA how their community is threatened by rising seas.