Many know Fiji for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it remains a developing country that deals with poverty. In fact, 31% of its population lives below the poverty line and struggles on a weekly basis to meet their needs. This article will look into homelessness in Fiji, what are some of its causes and why this is such a prevalent issue today. Here are five facts about homelessness in Fiji.
5 Facts About Homelessness in Fiji
- Suva, Fiji’s capital, is home to many of the nation’s homeless citizens. This includes individuals as young as primary school children. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, said that those who are homeless are not necessarily in this situation because of medical issues or lack of alternatives. She stated that while some people are homeless due to mental illness, others simply moved away from their families for one reason or another. She also shared that this homelessness can be generational. Some families have been struggling with this issue for a long time going all the way back to their grandparents living on the streets to their parents and so on.
- Approximately half a million people residing in Fiji are living in poverty. This plays a big role in the homeless population in regards to lack of housing along with “unemployment, urban migration, non-renewal of government leases for land, overpopulation of farming areas and the breakdown of traditional village life and culture.” For Fiji to diminish this problem, it would have to start by building a minimum of 4,200 homes per year. This would significantly help with housing standards but, as a developing country, this is a difficult task.
- Another factor that is to blame for homelessness in Fiji is natural disasters. Recently, Cyclone Harold has devastated the islands of Fiji, as well as other islands such as the Solomon Islands. This category four storm took place from April 1 to April 11, 2020. While the total number of homes that Cyclone Herald destroyed remains unknown, it has destroyed 46 homes just in the Bouwaqa Village on Vatulele in Fiji and completely ravaged another 14 homes leaving dozens of people without a home to go back to.
- Violence against women and girls has caused an increase in homelessness. Estimates have determined that 84% of young women who fall into these categories experience intimate partner violence and 66% of them have succumbed to homelessness due to their sexual orientation and how they identify.
- While tourism is generally good for a nation’s economy, it can also become a hindrance. In Fiji, tourism has hurt a lot of people and helped bolster homelessness. The most desired destinations dwell on what is free-leased land. What this means is that leases for this land almost never receive renewal which creates a bigger profit. Therefore, while these hotels and resorts are making money and boosting tourism, they are also holding onto land that could serve as a home to those without one.
Although these facts about homelessness in Fiji show that it will not dissipate overnight, some are implementing small measures to help those living on the streets. Since the coronavirus has happened, Fiji has been in lockdown like the rest of the world. One such family has taken it upon itself to continue its mission to feed the homeless. A 12-year-old boy named Junior, his parents and a small team of individuals call themselves MISSION-1. Even before lockdown, MISSION-1 would come to the streets of Suva every Sunday and provide food and hot beverages to the homeless. Despite lockdown and the risk of arrest, this team has continued to provide for those who others often forget.
Australia has also stepped up since Cyclone Harold devastated the Fiji Islands and has sent tents, kitchen supplies, hygiene items, containers for water as well as shelter kits. This is Australia’s way of giving back and thanking Fiji for its support during the Australian bushfires. With continued help, hope exists that Fiji’s homeless community will begin to decline.
– Stacey Krzych