Working together to prepare for disaster in Vanuatu


Last year’s Cyclone Pam was only one of a series of natural disasters that have struck the island of Vanuatu in recent years. People on Vanuatu are frequently affected by extreme weather events like this, which can have a devastating impact on houses, farms and businesses, leading to poverty and loss of livelihoods. 
 

Act for Peace partner, Vanuatu Christian Council, is helping people come together to plan for disasters by forming local disaster committees. The committees work together with their communities to identify disaster risks, and how to strengthen their village against disaster.

The disaster committees include representatives from all sections of the community, including women and young people, who come together to make a joint plan about how to help their communities both prepare for a disaster in advance, and respond better when one arrives. Some committees run training and simulation exercises, for example, or analyse the different groups in their community to establish who are the most vulnerable in the event of a disaster. In partnership, Vanuatu Christian Council and Act for Peace have set up 27 local disaster committees in the last 12 months, reaching villages in very remote areas.

On top of that, 12 people have been selected and trained to become “Church Champions” – local church members who can raise awareness about how to prepare for a disaster.

Marie is one of the Church Champions currently being trained to help make sure that the people living in the different areas and provinces of Vanuatu continue to be ready before, during and after a disaster strikes.

“I am a member of the Church of Christ community. When I first participated in this training I didn’t know much about how to prepare for disasters, or how to respond after a disaster had hit us. But after I learned this and passed on this knowledge, the community were aware. We know that we must secure our houses, cover and protect the water supplies, and bring food crops in from the garden for safe storage in the house. Community members didn’t think these precautions were important, but when we went to the workshop we found they were very important.”

“We’ve had feedback from the communities themselves saying, “Thank you. We know what to do because of the preparedness planning and training that we’ve had.” explains Geoff Robinson, the Disaster Risk Resilience Manager in Vanuatu.

Key facts:

  • Vanuatu is the world’s most at-risk country for natural hazards among the 171 countries covered by the World Risk Index Report 2015. This is due to its position in the Pacific that makes it vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, drought and tropical cyclones like Cyclone Pam.
  • Vanuatu is made of 83 islands.
 

The difference your gifts to the Christmas Bowl are making:
Act for Peace has been working in partnership with the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) on a Disaster Risk Reduction program, to create safer, more resilient Pacific island communities in the face of natural disasters. Because the villages of Vanuatu are stretched over such a large number of islands, many communities are cut off from government assistance in times of disaster. Part of the program is to set up Community Disaster Committees that can organise and prepare in the event of a disaster as quick as possible.

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