‘Climate change and disasters are everyone’s business’
The IFRC’s Pacific Regional Office has distributed the outcome report from a wide-ranging Red Cross consultation designed to trigger “key recommendations from women, men, girls and boys to improve humanitarian action and to better equip the humanitarian system,” in the words of the office head, Aurelia Balpe.
The report is a background document on the Pacific for this week’s regional consultation in Auckland, New Zealand, and is intended to be part of the run-up to next year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul next May.
Nearly 500 face-to-face consultations were held with adults and young people in 33 disaster- and conflict-affected communities in eight Pacific countries.
Seventy-one other people – Red Cross volunteers and staff in 14 Pacific countries – responded to an online survey.
The 565 respondents were roughly evenly divided between males and females.
“By acting on the recommendations in the report,” Balpe argues, “we believe the work of humanitarian actors in the Pacific region can be strengthened and partnerships with affected populations improved.”
The report groups respondents’ recommendations into four thematic areas: humanitarian effectiveness, vulnerability and risk, innovation, and conflict.
As small island states vulnerable to myriad natural hazards, including climate impacts, the delivery of international disaster relief in the Pacific faces serious challenges.
“Community voices must guide the design, implementation and monitoring of activities,” is one recommendation in thematic area on humanitarian effectiveness.
“Clear and comprehensive information must be made available to affected populations and mechanisms must also be in place for women, men and children to provide feedback…”.
Investing in disaster risk reduction will reduce the exposure to natural hazards facing vulnerable communities, the consultation document says, adding that this is proven to be cost effective in reducing losses.
But to be effective, it says, early warning systems must be “understandable, trusted and relevant to communities.
“In the Pacific, this means working in partnership with communities and adopting a diverse range of communications methods in order to ensure messages reach more people, more swiftly.
On climate in the Pacific, the consultation points out that both disasters and climate change are causing internal displacement in many countries, and that people often find integrating into their new host community difficult due to lack resources, including land.
“This leads to populations living marginal existences and exposes them to further hazards and human rights violations,” it says.
As climate change brings new weather conditions, the need to work with communities to help them adapt was raised by one Red Cross staffer, who said this work should include governments, community members and leaders as “climate change and disasters are everyone’s business.”
In Tuvalu, when asked how humanitarian assistance could be improved during times of disaster, one community member said they need better forecasts “to be well informed when there is a warning”.
Vanuatu communities asked for workshops to help communities understand disaster preparedness messages, including weather and climate information.
Staff consultations also reflected the importance of sharing weather-related information with communities accessibly.
Feedback showed many Red Cross Societies are working on this by engaging with their national meteorological services to improve weather and climate messaging.
One staff respondent said community workshops were vital to improving disaster preparedness communications, and these were already happening in Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga and Samoa.
In the Cook Islands, a Junior Red Cross programme involves students visiting elderly people to provide company, essential supplies, and support in preparing for the cyclone season. This photo appears on the cover of the outcome report from a wide-ranging Red Cross consultation on making humanitarian action more effective.
(Library photo: Benoit Matsha-Carpentier/IFRC)