My fellow Fijians,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and good evening.

It has been a very trying two weeks for those Fijians who have endured the wrath of the two major tropical cyclones that struck our country; bringing heavy rains, flooding and severe winds that have devastated some communities.

First, was the arrival of Cyclone Josie two weeks ago which developed rapidly overnight into a full-fledged tropical cyclone, and dumped massive amounts of rain on Fijians in our Western Division. Then, as we were beginning to pick up the pieces, Category 3 Tropical Cyclone Keni arrived last week, and with it another round of heavy rains, flooding, severe winds and devastation. As of today, we've recorded the loss of eight of our people due to these cyclones, and I'd like to extend my sincere and heartfelt sympathies to the families of those who have lost their lives.

In total, it is estimated around 150,000 Fijians have been impacted by these two storms, and I've been on the ground with our disaster officials and authorities who are providing immediate relief to affected Fijians and conducting assessments to determine how we can best get our communities back on their feet.

While we are still assessing the full extent of the damage, it is abundantly clear that we need an immediate programme of assistance to help our fellow Fijians recover from these events. Today, I am announcing that I have authorised a comprehensive relief package - the Cyclone Assistance Relief Effort for Fiji, or CARE for Fiji.

CARE for Fiji is an unprecedented and wide-reaching programme of Government assistance that cuts across Government ministries and departments to aid those Fijians impacted by the back-to-back onslaughts of TC Josie and TC Keni.

Under CARE for FIJI are a host of new Government initiatives covering affected Fijians: HOMES-CARE, FARMS-CARE, SUGARCANE-CARE, LEASEHOLDERS-CARE, WELFARE-CARE AND eTRANSPORT-CARE.

And the first round of assistance under these initiatives will go directly towards affected Fijians living in Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Under HOMES-CARE, households with an annual income of under $50,000 who have lost items in their homes or whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the cyclones can apply to receive prepaid electronic cards to purchase materials to repair their homes and replace possessions that were lost or badly damaged.

If your home was totally destroyed or suffered severe structural damage you qualify for $7,000 in relief assistance. Those funds can go towards the reconstruction of your home and to cover the replacement costs for your lost possessions or household items, that includes television sets, furniture, housewares; anything of value in your home that was damaged by the rains and flooding.

If your home suffered partial structural damage in the cyclones, say you had a wall collapse or your roof was blown away, you can apply for $3,000 in assistance to rebuild your home and replace your lost possessions. If your home was not severely damaged, but all or most of your possessions were lost or damaged beyond use by high flood waters you will be eligible for $3,000 in assistance.

Fijians whose homes suffered minor water damage and who had some possessions lost or damaged can apply to receive $1,000 in assistance to make any repairs and replace their lost or damaged possessions.

Those Fijians under vakavanua arrangements are eligible for $1,500 in relief assistance if their homes were severely damaged or destroyed. If only their possessions were damaged, they are eligible to receive $1,000 in assistance.

Recipients under HOMES-CARE will be able to use their electronic cards at approved retail vendors to purchase the items they need to rebuild their homes and replace the items they lost. Expressions of Interest for vendors will be in tomorrow's Fiji Sun and we'll announce the full list of vendors next week.

If you meet the criteria for this programme, you can find the full details on when, where and how to apply for HOMES-CARE advertised early next week in the Fiji Sun, on Radio and published on the Fijian Government Facebook page.

I'm also happy to announce that my Government will be assisting leaseholders on iTaukei and State land with an annual household income of under $50,000 who were affected by the recent cyclone under the LEASEHOLDERS-CARE programme. Again, this is for affected areas in Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. For those Fijians who are leasing iTaukei or State land for residential or agricultural purposes, Government will pay 12 months of your due lease payment. The full details and relevant dates for that assistance programme will also be advertised in early next week in the Fiji Sun and on Radio.

We're also coming to the aid of our farmers -- all of our farmers -- through two new relief programmes: SUGARCANE-CARE and FARMS-CARE.

Under SUGARCANE-CARE, my Government will be directly assisting cane farmers affected by these storms by covering the cost of replacing fertiliser that was washed away for all cane that was planted between November of last year until now. We will also be clearing debris brought in by flooding in cane growing regions, and clearing all in-field drainage and waterways in the wake of the cyclones. Applying for this assistance is simple, application forms will be made available through the FSC sector offices.

And my Government is not just dedicated to helping our cane farmers. The rest of our crop farmers in affected regions need assistance as well, for example, we know that at the minimum, most vegetable farmers have lost 90 per cent of their crops. So whether you're farming yaqona, fruits, vegetables, root crops, a mixture of these or any of the many staples that feed our Fijian families every day, my Government will be there to help.
Through the Ministry of Agriculture, we will be providing new seedlings and dry seeds, along with dalo tops and root crop suckers, for free to all farmers affected by these cyclones. The Ministry will also be clearing debris on all of our affected farmers property, helping to replace damaged fencing, and providing assistance for lost weedicide and fertiliser.

Depending on their land's preparedness for their replacement planting, farmers can expect to see the benefits of my Government's replanting assistance as soon as is both possible and appropriate. For those farmers replacing some of Fiji's heartier, ready-to-plant crops like dalo, cassava and kumala, that will be as soon as the assessments are completed.

And for our livestock farmers, we are offering free feed and replacement fencing to help cover any damages to your farms and recoup the value of lost heads of livestock sustained due to the severe weather, along with the clearing of debris.

We will have full details on FARMS-CARE available in the Fiji Sun and on Radio next week and, of course, on our Government Facebook page as well.

We also have two other programmes coming into effect for all Fijians affected by these storms. WELFARE-CARE and eTRANSPORT-CARE

Under WELFARE-CARE, all Fijians living in affected areas who already qualify for any of our social welfare programmes will receive a one-month top-up, effectively giving them a double payment for this month.

For eTRANSPORT-CARE, Fijians living in affected areas using permanent eTransport cards will receive a free top-up of 50 dollars and school children with unsubsidised yellow eTransport cards will receive a top-up of 25 dollars. Children with blue eTransport cards, of course, will continue to ride for free. All recipients can receive their top-ups at any Vodafone approved outlets in the country after signing a statutory declaration, and the exact dates and details will be advertised in the Fiji Sun and on Radio in the coming days as well.

Please read over the specific details of all programmes under CARE for Fiji which will all be advertised throughout next week in the Fiji Sun and on the Fijian Government Facebook page.

Now I want to be very clear on this: for all of the relief programmes, if any Fijian is found to be lying about the state of their property, farm, produce, home or their belongings, there will be very serious consequences. We will have teams deployed throughout the country carrying out regular spot checks of areas benefiting from these programmes, and we will also establish a hotline where concerned Fijians can report those who they suspect have abused these very important relief programmes. The Hotline will also allow members of the public to lodge complaints against those civil servants who do not fully implement CARE Fiji.

As we all know, Kadavu Island has been the most severely impacted by these storms, particularly by TC Keni. We have assessment teams on the ground as I speak, with more relief supplies on the way. After we've attended to the immediate needs of affected Fijians in Kadavu and finished damage assessments, we will be announcing another relief package, CARE for KADAVU, that is tailored to the unique needs of communities on the island.

So, my fellow Fijians, the bottom line is this: If you and your families have been severely impacted by TC Josie or TC Keni, or both, help is on the way.

I am departing this evening to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. I am going to London as your Prime Minister and to again take our campaign against climate change to the global audience in my role as President of COP23.

We know too well that storms like Cyclone Winston, Josie and Keni are already having a very serious impact on our people, our development and our way of life. Due to the worsening effects of climate change, tropical cyclones are only expected to become more severe in the years ahead.

CARE for Fiji is going to be a big help in getting many of our people back on their feet, but our response and strategy have to be even bigger, because we cannot afford to remain stuck in the same cycle of rebuilding year after year and cyclone after cyclone.

That is why we are carrying out extensive work around the country to build back better, to build a more resilient Fiji, and it is also why we cannot rest -- even for a minute -- in making our case on the international stage.

We need to keep up the pressure and seek full implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change so we can limit the harmful emissions that are causing our climate to change. More than that, we need the support, the ideas and the resources of our development partners to continue to adapt our nation to the realities of climate change -- the rising seas, the storms, the rains, the flooding and the changing weather patterns that are causing immense harm in Fiji and all around the world.

So as I depart for London, I take with me the stories of the many Fijians who are suffering in the aftermath of these storms, including the many I've had the chance to meet and speak with personally in their communities. I take with me our struggle, the struggle of the Fijian people in the face of climate change -- the same struggle faced by billions of vulnerable people the world over. And I take with me the same steadfast and unrelenting commitment we brought to the COP23 negotiations in Bonn last year. The same spirit that has already led us to such great progress, and that will continue to inspire women, men and young people around the world to join our mission to spare our planet from the worst effects of climate change.

May God bless you all and God Bless our beloved Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.