Vanuatu is regularly ranked as the world’s most vulnerable country to disaster, located on the “ring of fire” earthquake zone and the Pacific cyclone belt. Every year, Vanuatu faces the threat of cyclones. Many of these cyclones are damaging, but sometimes they are devastating. It took Vanuatu years to recover from 2015’s Tropical Cyclone Pam, which caused destruction worth 64% of its GDP. Tropical Cyclone Harold, which slammed into Vanuatu’s northern provinces on 6 April 2020, proved to be almost as devastating – and hitting in the middle of a national state of emergency to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19, the response is even more challenging.
When it comes to reaching Vanuatu’s remote islands, it's not only tarpaulins and food supplies that are difficult to transfer – so is information, both to and from affected communities. In previous disasters, providing communities with timely, detailed information about the response and receiving systematic, actionable feedback from communities is widely acknowledged to have been a gap in the national humanitarian response. And yet awareness is growing, internationally and within Vanuatu, that communication is just as critical as food, shelter and water in a disaster.
The Communications and Community Engagement (CCE) Sub-Cluster was established with support from the CDAC Network in partnership with CARE Vanuatu and Ground Truth Solutions with funding from the Australian Government in 2019 with a mandate to address this gap. Co-led by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and the Vanuatu Red Cross with a National Coordinator supported by CARE Vanuatu, the CCE Sub-Cluster brings together representatives from government, media, telecommunications, and non-governmental organisations and is tasked with providing long-term disaster preparedness and response support to the national disaster response system. TC Harold was the first time the CCE Sub-Cluster was activated in an emergency, and its preparedness work put to the test.
Our latest photo essay takes the reader on a journey across the country, and outlines how the CCE Sub-Cluster is keeping communications and community engagement on the agenda and integrating into every element of national humanitarian response.