Mr Benjamin Shing, Director of Vanuatu’s Department of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) said he had been “impressed and surprised” by the presentation made by SOPAC at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, held in the Cook Islands in October 2009.
He said that this presentation on the Economic Impact of Disasters had shown him “…how deep the impacts of a disaster can be felt in the small island economies of the Pacific.”
As a result, Mr Shing had invited SOPAC to conduct a two-day workshop in Port Vila, which was held in mid-December, on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management.
“Natural hazards have the potential to impact severely on the national economy of Vanuatu,” said Mr Shing, and gave as examples the Vanuatu Government releasing VT20 million to assist the people of Futuna after Cyclone Gene in 2008, followed by VT110 million in 2009 for disaster relief.
“More recently, a contingency plan estimated to cost VT540 million has been developed for the Gaua volcano because of its increasingly high level of activity, which is expected to involve the evacuation of 2700 inhabitants should the volcano alert level increase to level three.
“Vanuatu, and in particular the MFEM, is therefore keen to work with SOPAC and their Partners to explore options to better support DRR and DM to reduce the future economic impacts of disasters,” said Mr Shing,
Speaking after the workshop, the SPC/SOPAC Division Deputy Director Mosese Sikivou, said Vanuatu was the first amongst the 14 Pacific Island Forum countries to formulate a National Action Plan for disaster risk reduction and disaster management, and that this example had now been followed by a further 11 Forum Island Countries.
“When you talk about disaster risk reduction and disaster management you are also talking about things you can do to reduce costs to development,” said Mr Sikivou.
The 20 odd participants at the workshop, a number of whom were from MFEM and the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, said that they appreciated the opportunity to learn the importance of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management into national planning and budgeting.
Vanuatu’s location, particularly within in the “Pacific Ring of Fire” exposes the country to a wide range of hazards that include volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, floods and coastal erosion.
Photo caption: Vanuatu workshop participants in a brainstorming session.