Cyclone Pam enabled Vanuatu to build strong preparedness and response plans.
17 Apr 2020
A disaster within a disaster: Humanitarian crises do not stop because of COVID-19

Just over a week ago Tropical Cyclone Harold, a category five cyclone, hit our Pacific neighbours in Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing widespread damage and destruction amidst an already fragile environment.

In Vanuatu, Cyclone Harold has affected around two thirds of the entire country – prompting a second State of Emergency to be put in place for Cyclone Harold and COVID-19. Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the country is on high alert to ensure it remains this way.

For many places across the globe, just like the Pacific, multiple crises are taking place and people are dealing with COVID-19 while managing other humanitarian crises – a ‘disaster within a disaster’.

The current environment is challenging for humanitarians to do their work. Closed borders, travel and quarantine restrictions and mammoth logistical challenges are preventing humanitarian aid, both supplies and people, arriving to locations where they are needed most.

It is critical that we support communities across the Pacific in protecting their people from COVID-19 as we support recovery efforts for Cyclone Harold. With travel for our deployees currently restricted we are looking at other options, including working from home deployments and ways we can engage local responders in their own countries.

Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga are managing the full humanitarian cycle at once. They are preparing for COVID-19, responding to Cyclone Harold all while recovering from Cyclone Pam – a disaster that hit in 2015.

RedR Australia is committed to supporting communities to build local capacity and our lived experience demonstrates that disaster preparedness is key to protecting people during this global pandemic. This is why more than half of RedR’s deployments last year supported overseas partners and communities before a crisis, strengthening systems to make a country more resilient. For the Pacific, this preparedness is now being put to the test.

It is crucial that communities are able to lead their own disaster management responses and have their call for help answered. The recovery from Cyclone Pam has enabled Vanuatu to build strong preparedness and response plans and architecture that it is enacting now for both the COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold disasters.

RedR Australia is proud to support the Vanuatu Government’s requests for assistance and work alongside Vanuatu counterparts to ensure a coordinated response for those most affected.

Humanitarian support and response can no longer function as ‘business as usual’ in 2020, but disasters, conflicts and crises do not stop because the world is focused on a new threat. RedR Australia is finding new ways to support our neighbours around the world, because now, more than ever is the time to put humanitarian principles into action.

While our deployees continue to help our global neighbours at this time, we also see the millions of small actions that people are taking to help their most immediate neighbours. We believe it is up to all of us to spread this local kindness and show our global solidarity. Tell us your stories of how your community is coming together during this crisis with the hashtag #HelpingOurNeighbours.