Fiji is among the countries with low COVID-19 cases. Even before the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus as a pandemic, the Government of Fiji had already toughened its border security and restricted the entry of foreign nationals who had been in mainland China within 14 days of their planned travel to the country. Lockdowns and curfew in islands with active cases were also imposed, which eventually helped in managing the spread of the virus.
However, despite the low number of cases, the COVID-19 pandemic still had greatly impacted the existing hardships faced by persons with psychosocial disabilities in Fiji. It also exposed that people with psychosocial disability in the country are still marginalized and left behind. Also for the general public, the psychological effects of COVID-19 are as important to address as the physical health effects.
Below are the key challenges impacting the lives of people with psychosocial disability in Fiji:
- Lack of access to proper screening of Coronavirus;
- Lack of access to information
- Increased anxiety and panic attacks
- Loss of employment and reduced working hours
- Inability to apply coping mechanisms that previously worked due to mobility restrictions
- Lack of supply in medications due to the shortage in the hospitals
- Lack of access to sexual reproductive health services
- Slashes in social security benefits; and
- Human rights violations when individuals breach curfew hours.
Partner Organization: Psychiatric Survivors Association of Fiji (PSA)
The Psychiatric Survivors Association of Fiji (PSA) is the oldest user survivor organization in the Pacific Islands. It is a national organization of people with psychosocial disabilities that aims to provide individual support to its members and promote human rights through friendship, peer support, advocacy, mental health promotion, community education, campaigning and policy work. Since its establishment in 2004 it is run by a small group of people who had spent time in Fiji’s only inpatient facility (St. Giles Hospital). PSA has now grown with around 350 members throughout the Fiji Islands.
Link to website (via partner’s logo): https://psafiji.weebly.com/
Budget: 5000 USD
Time frame: August 2020 to January 2021
Project Areas: Central Division, Western Division, Vanuabalavu
Target Individuals/Group: 25 members/persons with psychosocial disability
PSA has encountered great difficulties in carrying out its core work during the pandemic, especially with a recent slash of the government funding. Nevertheless, this phase has offered several opportunities for the organization to advance its understanding on how to address the rising psychosocial distress among individuals caused by the increasing unemployment, lack of food security, lack of job opportunities, possible loss of life and threats to support systems.
With focus on psychosocial first aid and care, PSA responds to the above mentioned needs by creating a backyard farming project that aims to augment the large scale unemployment problem and disturbance to coping mechanisms of the members. At the end of the project, PSA hopes to show evidence of the therapeutic benefits of gardening and its long term sustainability, improved food security for the members and decreased level of stress, anxiety and panic. The main components of the response include the distribution of farming equipment and seeds to the members, home visits, sustaining the peer support system (i.e. through one-on-one sessions and group support via listening circles), awareness raising and advocacy. PSA will also work with the homeless to provide relief measures and a safe space, as their numbers are rising and they are particularly vulnerable at this point.