Many houses and critical infrastructure were damaged when the category five-strong Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold hit Vanuatu on 6 April 2020 causing devastation to islands in the northern part of Vanuatu. Rebuilding homes is essential for the safety, health, and livelihood restoration of affected communities in the aftermath of a disaster.
In recognition of this, in March 2020, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji handed over two Lucas mills to the government of Vanuatu to be used to support immediate response and recovery reconstruction needs following the Ambae volcano evacuations in 2018 — and later TC Harold in 2020. This support is also consistent with the disaster-risk reduction focus of the UNDP.
To date, the equipment has been used to mill timber to support reconstruction needs on Santo as part of the immediate response to TC Harold under a pilot program developed by the Department of Forestry and the Vanuatu Skills Partnership (TVET). The pilot is aimed at enhancing capacity to utilise timber for reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected communities, enable livelihood opportunities and simultaneously ensure the sustainable harvesting of trees.
The pilot also included trainings on using the mills, using trees that fell during TC Harold.
The milled timber was used to build five model houses for vulnerable community members who had lost their homes to TC Harold. The model houses have been completed and handed over to the recipients earlier this year. The timber was also used to support the reconstruction of damaged buildings of the Department of Forestry. The current project is currently small-scale but there is consideration to expand it to include full packaged trainings and to deliver it to as many communities as possible. There is also consideration for other sustainable livelihood approaches for the ongoing use of the mills.
UNDP has provided US$360,000 (VT40, 900,000) as part of its TC Harold recovery support for initiatives that include housing reconstruction assistance, rehabilitation of affected water systems, the procurement of damaged automated weather stations, as well as assessment and coordination support.
UNDP’s support through the Disaster Resilience for Pacific Small Islands Developing States (RESPAC) project is in addition to a provision of US$211,000 (VT23, 900,000) which it made to the government of Vanuatu in late 2019 to support disaster recovery efforts. Funds were disbursed from the Pacific Early Recovery Fund (PERF) with initial funding from the Russian Federation and from UNDP core funding.
There are various components of the funding, which includes improved water supply and access for Ambaens on Santo and Ambae, including trainings on drinking water safety, security, community management and plumber’s training.
UNDP has also allocated funding to the Department of Strategic Policy Planning & Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) specifically for the establishment of the Recovery Operation Centre which overseed the development of the TC Harold/COVID-19 Post Disaster Needs Assessment and the Vanuatu Recovery Strategy 2020-2023.
Earlier in 2020, UNDP also funded and facilitated a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)/Disaster Recovery Framework (DRF) training for national and provincial disaster management coordinators. This training supported the Recovery Operation Centre within the Department of Strategic Policy Planning & Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) and the Prime Minister’s Office to take lead in the completion of the PDNA assessment.
UNDP’s support is consistent with the objectives of the Government of Vanuatu, which includes meeting key priority recovery needs for water and sanitation, shelter, livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, resilience as well as knowledge and capacity building.
Funding for disaster recovery programmes is managed by DSPPAC which is secretariat to the National Recovery Committee (NRC), whose mandate is to provide oversight and governance of recovery projects funded by donor partners and the government of Vanuatu.