Cyclone Winston: On February 20, Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, struck the island country of Fiji as a category 5 storm. Tens of thousands of residents remain homeless from the storm's destruction, and many have moved to evacuation centers, waiting for aid to reach them. The current death toll from the storm stands at 42, but the country's National Disaster Management Office warns that that number will likely rise as the island copes with the aftermath.
Of the 900,000 living on the island, an estimated 35,000 are now living in shelters--many of which are damaged and with limited access to aid-- and salvaging what they can during the day. International aid communities have been mobilizing to do what they can, but the scale of the damage to communication networks has made aid delivery difficult, especially to the island's most remote regions. Luckily, some of these remote regions have had communication re-established after the New Zealand air force dropped radios to them. Aid workers have also warned that the significant amounts of stagnant water left behind by the storm can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which may lead to potential outbreaks of Zika or Dengue viruses.
The International Committee of the Red Cross' Family Linking website has been activated in response, where you can search through the list of missing persons who have reported being alive, register names of those with whom contact has been lost, and register names of those who wish to inform others that they are alive. The page can be accessed here. For inquiries concerning U.S. citizens, the Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens Services can be reached here, and more information on the reconnecting families links work of the American Red Cross can be found here.
Calais Refugee Camp: This week, the fate of the Calais "Jungle" camp in Northern France was threatened after a court in Lille ruled that makeshift settlements in the camp can be destroyed by local authorities. The city of Calais has recently become an important location for refugees in Europe hoping to reach the U.K. due to its proximity to the Eurotunnel rail system and traffic crossing of the English Channel. An evacuation order was issued last Friday for those living in the camp's southern sector, citing security and hygiene issues.
Now, the threat extends to the entire settlement, in which an estimated 6,000 migrants live. The court order specifies that makeshift shelters can be destroyed, but that common spaces like places of worship, schools, and libraries must stand. Authorities of the Channel Tunnel, which many Calais camp residents hope to cross through to the U.K., have called for funds from Britain to secure its most vulnerable spots to protect against the massive influx of migrants.
Tensions have been rising among Calais residents as the camp's population has grown, who have increasingly become frustrated by the migrants' presence and tarnished image of their city. While the court ruling reflects popular sentiment, critics stress that the ruling has little real effect and that all it will accomplish is scattering thousands throughout Northern France, and that newer smaller settlements will likely appear.
Malakal: Last Wednesday, violence erupted in a UN-administered Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in Malakal, South Sudan. The fighting arose from growing ethnic tensions between Dinka and Shilluk communities in the camp, which led to intervention by armed government soldiers, resulting in all-out violence and half the camp being burnt to the ground. The death toll stands at 18, several residents and children injured have been left unaccompanied, and tens of thousands of displaced persons have been scattered throughout the region.
This presents a new humanitarian crisis in the troubled country, with tens of thousands left without food, medicine, or shelter. Aid organizations are now faced with the nearly impossible task of providing 20,000 with critically needed immediate aid, and plans to rebuild the camp must be coordinated.