Emergency employment gives hope to communities affected by Cyclone Pam

Nov 12, 2015

Lilly Tupas shows Russel Tamata, UNDP's Recovery Coordinator her record book of all sales (Photo: Sheryl Ho/UNDP).

Lilly Tupas lives in the Etas area with her husband and son, and runs a small shop, which is located near the Buoffa Landfill on the outskirts of Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital.  During Tropical Cyclone Pam, her shop was destroyed and she lost everything. Months on she has since rebuilt and restocked her shop and is back in business.

In May, Ms. Tupas joined 129 men and women and participated in an emergency employment scheme, which consisted of debris clearance and waste management in urban areas. It is a component of UNDP’s Waste Management and Livelihood Recovery Initiative under the Cyclone Pam Recovery and Resilience in Vanuatu project. Through this initiative, the most vulnerable men and women were selected to clear debris, recover and recycle waste. The jobs provided the affected communities with much needed cash and tools to help restore their livelihoods.

Chair and President of the Etas area, Chief Samuel Willie said “So many people wanted to be included but we had to make sure there was equal representation from the all the provinces including women.

“Rebuilding after the Cyclone hasn’t been easy for many of our people but the emergency employment scheme was very helpful.”

Recalling the destruction of Cyclone Pam, Ms. Tupas said there was also significant damage to her kitchen and sleeping house. The food items in the shop was also blown away.

“I wanted to participate in the emergency employment scheme because I lost everything and didn’t know what to do.”

For many of residents of the Etas area, their source of income is from vegetables from their home gardens that they sell along the roadside, some work in the capital Port Vila while others are waste pickers, collecting recyclable waste like copper, brass and aluminum.

According to Roger Tari, Port Vila Municipal Council’s Health and Environmental Officer, training and awareness was offered to participants before any clearing and sorting of debris and wastes started.

“Many people have no idea what waste management is and it’s important to create awareness around waste management.

“At the landfill, we involved the waste pickers to do the clean-up and we had managers at the landfill who supervised the categorizing of wastes,” said Mr. Tari.

Ms. Tupas added that apart from earning an income, she learnt about the importance of separation and proper waste management including the separation of harmful waste.

Obed Allan, a group leader during the cleanup said that waste management is crucial for the Bouffa Landfill because it is extending towards the homes as more waste is dumped at the site and as a result the stench becomes unbearable.

Before the Cyclone struck, Ms. Tupas had planned to strengthen the structure of her shop and had already bought roofing iron and timber.

“So all I had to do was use the income I earned to buy food items for my shop and materials to fix my kitchen and sleeping house, and my husband did all the work.

“If it wasn’t for this scheme, I wouldn’t have been able to restock and open my shop so soon,” she said while producing her record keeping book, proudly displaying the records she’s had for the past few years.

With a backlog of orders for building materials, Mr. Allan said it took a while to finally buy materials to rebuild. “With the money I earned, I spent it on food and bus fares for my children who had to go back to school. The rest of the money I bought nails and screws for building.”

“We are very happy with the emergency employment scheme,” said Chief Willie. “The equipment provided to us during the cleanup, like gloves and boots, we still use today. The women especially are very happy because even when it rains, they can still go to the landfill to collect recyclable and reusable waste.”

UNDP’s Waste Management and Livelihoods Recovery Initiative in Vanuatu has two components: debris clearance and waste management in urban areas, and livelihood restoration in rural areas. This collaboration between UNDP and the Department of Local Authorities has been further assisted by the Russian Government with the provision of an additional funding of US$500,000 to the project, to continue its Tropical Cyclone Pam recovery and resilience activities in Vanuatu.

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