YOUR October peace mail from Vanuatu
My name is Yvette and I am the Disaster and Emergencies Program Coordinator at Act for Peace (AfP). I work with our program partners around the globe who are responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.
Right now I am working on the aid response for the food emergency in East Africa, and our programs for people affected by the wars in Iraq and Syria. Later today I have a phone call with our partner in Tonga, the Tonga National Council of Churches, to discuss our Disaster Risk Reduction project. As you can imagine, no two days are alike and I am away from home quite a bit.
I wanted to share with you some details about my visit to Port Vila, Vanuatu, in May this year. I was meeting with AfP’s local partner, the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC), to host a four-day workshop for churches in disaster coordination. Churches in Vanuatu play a significant role within communities – especially in rural areas outside of Port Vila. Training church members to respond in a disaster can really help communities help themselves and not have to rely on outside help, which might take days or even weeks to come. A community’s ability to survive a disaster is dependent on several factors including the quality of buildings and evacuation centres, level of community preparedness (such as preserving food, stockpiling drinking water or doing a first aid course) and early warning.
During the workshop, the Vanuatu government’s cyclone warning system suddenly kicked in. There were radio announcements, text messages, and Facebook posts telling us that Tropical Cyclone (TC) Donna was on course to hit Vanuatu. Luckily, the workshop was full of disaster response officers from all of the major churches in Vanuatu!
At this stage the storm was still a few days away. Some of the workshop participants left to get back to their islands before flights were cancelled and planes grounded. I decided to stay with those that didn’t leave but made sure I had drinking water, a torch and batteries, and food supplies before the situation became urgent - which is all part of the training we give to the churches.
As the days passed, we were kept informed of TC Donna’s progress and landfall prediction through the Government’s warning system. We waited and waited, fully prepared but, thankfully, TC Donna didn’t land in Port Vila.
We found out that there was some damage in the remote, northern islands of Vanuatu. I spent the next few days working with the VCC, church agencies and linking in with the Government response to ensure those who needed help received it before I returned home.
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Act for Peace runs programs with Vanuatu Council of Churches (VCC) throughout Vanuatu to help communities become better prepared and more resilient to disasters so that they don’t have to rely on immediate assistance and can manage as much as they can self-sufficiently.
Act for Peace (AfP) is one of eight Australian church-based NGOs responding to international disasters in the Pacific and together we have formed a consortium called CAN DO (Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations) to facilitate disaster co-ordination efforts. In May this year, CAN DO was in Vanuatu to meet with the Government, and to work together to strengthen our disaster management efforts, including meeting with other humanitarian agencies, and a four day workshop with local trainees.
Thanks to your support, Act for Peace is leading the CAN DO church consortium by putting in place the Australian Government’s five-year disaster preparedness program in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. We are working with communities in these island nations to prepare for natural disasters and to become more resilient in withstanding the impact of disasters.
Your support is making a difference
- $286 – Community First Aid Kit – to remote communities. First aid kits contain bandages, disinfectant, and other medical supplies to treat injuries.
- $597 – Disaster preparedness Kit which contains supplies for families in the aftermath of a disaster, including solar lights, torches, matches, two-way radios, mosquito protection to prevent malaria, soap and clean linen.
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