Vanuatu, Port Vila – In the pursuit to improve the flow of disaster-related information that will progress the resilience of vulnerable communities, the Disaster Resilience for Pacific Small Island Developing States (RESPAC) Project with the support of the Russian Federation, recently held a regional workshop to map out a solution for its 15 member countries and territories.
The three-day workshop had participants assess and track existing disaster information flows to improve the flow of information from those that are generating, or are the recipients of, disaster/hazard related information. Furthermore, the countries analyzed and mapped how this information is then effectively transmitted to the communities.
The overarching theme of the workshop was increasing resilience of vulnerable communities through effective pre- and post-disaster communications for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and was held on the 22 - 24 November 2017.
The workshop participants included senior government officials from National Meteorology and Hydrology Offices, National Disaster Management Offices and representatives of communication service providers.
The communication service providers present were Blue Sky, Vodaphone and Digicel, who are engaged with the National Disaster Management Offices to help reach the communities and provide support to governments to prepare for, and offer additional support, during disasters. Support ranges from free phone calls to disaster information numbers, free phones for responders and support for one number per country that would direct them to the essential responding agencies i.e. fire, police, search and rescue etc.
Cook Islands Meteorological Service Director, Arona Ngari said, “The workshop has created some incentive for the Pacific region to adopt some targets and priorities of the Sendai Framework, let alone the enhancement of the collaboration of stakeholders in each country.”
He added, “The workshop has encouraged countries to identify gaps in their respective countries and share these with other countries to mitigate the onset of disasters.”
Tonga National Emergency Management Office Director, Leveni Aho said, “We must make every effort to effectively communicate early warnings to our people especially in the event of tsunamis, volcano eruptions, cyclones, floods and even droughts.”
“The same tools can be used for preparation before and responding to events after. The communication strategy must be effective reliable and affordable,” he added.
Vodafone Fiji Head of eCommerce and Corporate Affairs, Shailendra Prasad said, “The workshop was a great learning experience and highlighted many common issues and challenges we face as Pacific islands and the need to collaborate both within the country with government and private sectors, and regionally to protect our communities from the harsh effects of natural disasters.”
He added, “With the increasing extremities in weather conditions because of climate change, there is a greater need to build resilience against natural disasters to ensure food security and livelihood and protect lives and properties of our people in the Pacific.”
RESPAC Project Manager at the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Noud Leenders, said, “Increased targeted investments to upgrade and modernize climate and telecommunications networks across the Pacific has the potential to significantly extend the number of people who receive understandable climate and disaster-related information, that should focus on the most at-risk communities.”
He added, “The RESPAC project aims to improve Pacific SIDS’ resilience to climate related hazards. Therefore, if remote communities are provided with the accurate, understandable and timely information that enables them to act appropriately, it will help improve resilience and capacity to effectively address recovery and lessen the loss of property, livelihoods and lives.”
Pacific Islanders, while equipped with traditional methods to cope with disasters, must also deal with modern day realities and the increased exposure and vulnerability to disasters. And, as seen with Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji, these vulnerabilities can easily derail a massive effort of development and cause substantial damages and losses to individuals and communities at large.
“Therefore, it is important that pre-disaster communications aided by modern day technologies reach out to the ‘farthest of the far’ to ensure that all communities are reached and can enhance their preparedness and resilience to ensure the mitigation of loss of lives, property and livelihoods,” said Leenders.
The RESPAC Project with the support of the Russian Federation works with 15 Pacific Island countries and territories to improve their resilience to climate related hazards. The project focuses on strengthening early warning systems and climate monitoring abilities, preparedness, planning and tools to manage disaster recovery processes strengthened at regional, national and local levels, while increasing the use of financial instruments to manage and share disaster-related risk and support post disaster recovery efforts.
Setaita Tavanabola, Communications and Knowledge Management Associate, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, tel: +679 3227 523; email: firstname.lastname@example.org