News Item

Vanuatu receives boost for disaster risk management

Media 20 Jan 2020

The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved a contingent US$10 million in support to Vanuatu that will strengthen the country's resilience to disasters, climate adaptation and help manage its debt.

Vanuatu is considered to be one of the countries most at risk to natural disasters in the world. The new World Bank operation, which provides US$10 million that can be accessed in the event of a major disaster, is supporting reforms that will deliver stronger risk mitigation and prevention actions in Vanuatu. These reforms are helping to shift Vanuatu's disaster risk management system from a focus on response/emergency management, to a greater emphasis on risk reduction, climate adaptation and longer-term recovery.

The support has already led to the passage of a new Disaster Risk Management Act; one that is built around preparing for and responding to disasters on the national, provincial and local levels, as well as a National Land Subdivision Policy that takes a more comprehensive approach to risk reduction and climate adaptation for land development across Vanuatu.

This is critical for key urban areas. - such as in and around the capital Port Vila and Luganville - where growth has led to larger concentrations of people living in hazardous areas, which can be at high risk during times of disaster; particularly those alongside rivers, steep slopes, and in coastal areas. The aim of the operation is to improve services in these areas and build measures to reduce loss of life and catastrophic damage in the event of a major natural disaster.

Vanuatu's Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Gaetan Pikioune acknowledged the support of the World Bank saying it was critical especially as the country struggled to recover from Cyclone Pam in 2015.

"This strong support from the World Bank is critical to increasing the resilience of our country to natural disasters, like what we experienced during Cyclone Pam," Mr. Pikioune said.

"The financing and support for policy reforms provided by this operation will deliver short, medium and long-term benefits to all ni-Vanuatu."

In addition, the operation aims to strengthen Vanuatu's debt management through support for a new Debt Management Strategy. This will be particularly critical to ensure Vanuatu has the capacity to respond to future natural disasters and economic shocks.

"We know that natural disasters remain an ever-present threat to Vanuatu. Being prepared for major disasters - before they strike - is one of the most effective ways to minimise their impacts," said Michel Kerf, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

"We're proud to be delivering support to Vanuatu focused on saving lives, protecting homes and communities, and benefitting Vanuatu's economy.

With the addition of this new operation, and the completion of the major Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project at the end of 2019, the World Bank now has three active projects in Vanuatu projected at a total of US$55 million across sectors including transport, energy, climate resilience and adaptation.

Image: An abandoned building on the Vanuatu island of Tanna, which was damaged by cyclone Pam in March 2015. Source: RNZI / Jamie Tahana