Suva / Geneva: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) yesterday launched an international appeal for 5.7 million Swiss francs to assist 81,000 people across five Pacific Nations – Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – all of which have been badly affected by Cyclone Pam and other tropical storms (Cyclone Nathan and Tropical Storm Bavi) that have swept across the region in the past ten days.
The worst affected country has been Vanuatu where Cyclone Pam first made landfall on March 13, packing winds of 250 kph.
Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed and agricultural production has been particularly hit hard.
Other countries in the region suffered various impacts as the different weather systems collided. Heavy rains caused flooding and landslides and tidal surges displaced many families living in coastal areas of low-lying islands.
“The world’s attention has been firmly focused on the impact of Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu but these storms also wreaked havoc in neighboring countries. There needs to be a greater balance in the humanitarian response across the region”, explains Aurelia Balpe, IFRC head of delegation for the Pacific, adding, “the needs in other countries may be on a different scale but they are just as acute for those affected. Many communities are located in remote island groupings spread across a vast geographical area. Delivering aid will be costly and the logistics involved are challenging”.
On 16 March, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal seeking 3.9 million Swiss francs (3.8 million USD) to help the Vanuatu Red Cross Society support some 60,000 people (10,000 households).
This appeal has now been merged into the new regional appeal, which is focused on meeting immediate emergency needs across all five countries and on helping communities in their longer term recovery.
Providing emergency relief and shelter support remains a priority after thousands of homes have been left damaged or destroyed. Longer term support will also be given to households to build back safer homes.
The Red Cross will also help to ensure that communities have access to safe water supply while also rehabilitating and increasing local water points, including rainwater harvesting systems. Cyclone Pam caused significant damage to agricultural production, not only threatening food security but also the livelihoods of subsistence farmers.
The IFRC appeal will help families to recover and diversify their livelihoods. Given the perennial disaster risks that countries face in the Pacific, the appeal will also support disaster risk reduction and climate awareness programmes that help to build the resilience of local communities.
“We are seeing a pattern of more frequent and extreme weather events in the Pacific and it is essential that we continue to invest in early warning and disaster risk preparedness projects that benefit local communities and save lives”, says Aurelia Balpe.