Restoration of services on Ambae to be prioritised on safe zones: COM

The Council of Ministers (COM) in its third ordinary meeting on Friday 22 February 2019, made the following decisions (COM Decision 024/2019) in relation to the Ambae Manaro Volcano Recovery Process:

1. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) are to work together with Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMDG), and Ministry of Lands (MoL) to determine safe zone boundaries on Ambae

2. Government is to ensure restoration of basic services on safe zones on Ambae

3. Outside of safe zones, limited and temporary essential services are to be provided, in line with government policy requirements

4. Recovery actions to continue to emphasize development of a safe second home option for Ambae people

5. Priorities identified by sector clusters in support of second home development is to be provided on Maewo, Santo, Pentecost and Efate

6. Ni-Vanuatu communities and Chiefs on the affected islands must support government and affected people to ensure safe locations for resettlement and second home is available

7. All Sectors are mandated to provide the necessary information, without delay, to ensure rapid finalisation of the long term recovery plan for Ambae and other affected islands

The ongoing danger of further eruptions, toxic gas emissions, ashfall and contamination of land and underground water incurs significant risks for populations, and in consideration for this, the second home policy remains a key component of the recovery plan. Nevertheless, for populations determined to return to Ambae, essential services are to be provided on Ambae ‘safe zones’ only, as will be delimited by VMGD, MoL and NDMO.

As regards the remaining areas considered to be unsafe or at high risk, COM has mandated the provision of appropriate temporary essential basic services to populations in these zones until such time as they are able to find alternative living arrangements in safe zones or on other islands.

With the return of many displaced people to Ambae recently, the restoration of some basic services on Ambae island has already begun but has been limited, given the complexities of the continuous movement of the displaced population, and hence the need to review the directions of recovery efforts.

The formulation of the long-term recovery plan for Ambae and other affected islands which covers all islands and areas affected by population movement from the volcano disaster, is currently under development by DSPPAC within the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Recovery Plan, and the budgets included, are guided by COM directives.

The approved Maewo Plan (COM Decision 192/2018) will be integrated into this long-term plan. The latter will include both Ambae and the other affected islands of Santo, Pentecost and Efate (Port Vila) and for a longer time period, namely 2019-2022. The broader plan will specify clear prioritisation and phasing of recovery interventions. It must be noted that while Government support for Ambaean second homes has, to date, been limited to Maewo, many people have developed second homes on other islands, particularly Santo.

The long term recovery plan takes this into account, and based on the priorities identified by sector clusters, it is intended to provide support across the affected islands including Maewo, Santo, Pentecost and Efate.

The long term recovery plan is of relevance to the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) 2016-2030 environment pillar with a predominant focus on enhancing resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change and disasters. The plan also covers both the social and economic pillars given the need to maintain social values and culture, and also to rebuild livelihoods.

A long term recovery plan budget for Ambae 2019-2022 for Ambae and other essential islands is currently being considered.

The COM has issued 13 COM Decision Papers between March 2018 and January 2019 to respond to the Manaro volcano disaster. COM decisions to date, maintain support for the second home project and limitation of return to Ambae, due to significant risks for the population.

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