Countries in the Pacific experience a wide range of hazards, including cyclones, floods, drought, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Meanwhile, extreme climate variations are presenting new risks, including changes in rainfall patterns, increased severity of storms and rises in sea levels. Poverty, population growth and rapid urbanization all exacerbate these vulnerabilities. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) leads and coordinates the U.S. government’s response to disasters overseas. USAID/OFDA responds to an average of 65 disasters, in more than 50 countries, every year. The types of disasters that USAID/OFDA responds to are rapid onset disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanoes and floods and slow onset crises, such as drought and conflict. In partnership with other operating units of USAID and other U.S. government agencies, USAID/OFDA saves lives, alleviates human suffering and reduces the social and economic impact of disasters worldwide.
REGIONAL DISASTER RISK REDUCTION ACTIVITIES in the PACIFIC ISLANDS
Building Disaster Management Capacity in the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands
The Pacific Island countries of FSM, Palau, and RMI are vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, including drought, floods, and cyclones. The Marshall Islands Red Cross Society (MIRCS), Micronesia Red Cross Society (MRCS), and Palau Red Cross Society (PRCS)—supported by IFRC—continue to partner with local government agencies, businesses, and communities to build awareness of disaster response activities and cultivate a trained volunteer base for emergency responses. USAID/OFDA has provided more than $1.4 million since FY 2013 to support the preparedness and mitigation activities of MIRCS, MRCS, and PRCS.
Increasing Resilience and Response Capacity to Natural Disasters
With USAID/OFDA funding, IFRC is working to increase the capacity, readiness, and resilience of national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in EAP to respond to natural disasters. Through the program, IFRC is working with national societies, including in Papua New Guinea, to strengthen their capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters.
Mainstreaming Gender and Disability Inclusion in Community-based Disaster Risk Management
USAID/OFDA supports CARE to increase community resilience to climate change and disasters through gender and disability inclusive approaches to emergency preparedness and emergency response planning processes. To achieve this, the program works with communities, local CSOs, and government at all levels to increase their awareness and skills on gender and disability inclusion. CARE will work within existing structures, build on existing local capacities, and draw on and support positive cultural traditions. By increasing knowledge on climate change and disasters, and gender and disability inclusion, this program will strengthen community development planning processes. This program will also support specific activities for women and people with disabilities to increase their voice and confidence in community level decision-making fora and action.
Strengthening Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Coordination and National Emergency Response Capacities in the Pacific
With support from USAID/OFDA, WHO will work with Ministries of Health across the Pacific to develop Emergency Medical Team capacity in some of the world’s most vulnerable and disaster-prone countries to develop national EMT capacity, and to more effectively receive and coordinate support from international EMTs, when required. This program focuses on five countries for national EMT development – Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau, and Tuvalu – to be able to rapidly deploy trained and equipped clinical and public health teams in cases of local emergencies. Activities will support improved use and coordination of incoming international EMTs in larger-scale events in all Pacific countries.
Supporting Early Warning Systems in the Pacific
Since 2009, USAID/OFDA has supported NOAA to deploy satellite terminals—called chatty beetles—that make text messaging possible in areas with limited connectivity to disseminate weather and hydrometeorological alerts and information to remote locations. The messaging system connects emergency managers and hydrometeorological warning authorities to provide basic notification of potential hazards to isolated communities that face limited communication options. Chatty beetles are helping national meteorological and hydrological services and national disaster management agencies to disseminate life-saving early warning alerts.
Supporting WFP Emergency Capacity and Preparedness
USAID/OFDA supports the UN World Food Program (WFP) to bolster emergency logistics and telecommunications capacity across the Pacific. WFP works with national and regional relief actors to improve assessment, coordination, equipment stocking, technical advisory services and training capacity in the region. Through these activities, WFP aims to strengthen operational capacity of national disaster management offices and their local partners, and develop infrastructure to prevent and respond to disasters.
Rapid Response Manufacturing in the Pacific: A New Approach to DRR
Field Ready’s disaster risk reduction program enables local manufacturing of items needed to address critical health and water/sanitation service bottlenecks in disaster-affected areas. Field Ready engages local engineers and technicians to apply low-tech and high-tech manufacturing methods with remote support from global teams of experts from the private sector and academia. This program will promote the scaled production of existing locally produced WASH products in partnership with government and sector lead agencies. Technical teams will identify new specific items to be designed and manufactured through this program, determined by need with beneficiaries through our community engagement partners during the design process. This responds to the lack of technical capacity to manufacture and replace parts for low-tech items such as water pumps, solar panels, electrical fittings and automated weather stations that hampers disaster preparedness and response in the Pacific, especially in remote locations.
Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands
Bolstering Disaster Response Capacity
USAID/OFDA supports a multi-year AmCross program implemented with MRCS to build local capacity and reduce communities’ vulnerability to disaster risks in FSM by improving sanitation infrastructure and increasing water supply. AmCross addresses water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs in disaster-prone areas, including through hygiene promotion activities and rehabilitation of sanitation facilities.
Increasing Resilience Among Vulnerable Communities in FSM
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) bolsters the capacity of local authorities and communities on FSM’s Yap Island to prepare for and recover from frequently occurring natural hazards, such as drought and typhoons. With USAID/OFDA support, CRS is facilitating the development of a national disaster risk management and climate adaptation plan; training households to develop and adopt household-level preparedness plans; promoting effective hygiene practices; and supporting 600 vulnerable households to diversify or enhance agricultural livelihood strategies, thereby ensuring food sources and agricultural livelihoods are resilient to drought and typhoons.
Inclusive Mitigation and Preparedness in Action (IMPACT) RMI
The IMPACT project in the RMI will enhance the capacity within the RMI communities and governments to be better prepared for, and more resilient to hazard events and disasters. The project focuses on equipping communities with the resources and skills to actively mitigate hazards, prioritizing an inclusive approach with traditionally underrepresented populations, and supporting response planning through Joint Damage Assessments. IOM will work with communities to identify one of the following mitigation interventions towards enhancing resilience: shelter, water security, and food security.
National and State Disaster Management Capacity Building
In FY 2019, USAID/OFDA provided $500,000 to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the Enhanced Preparedness for Emergency Response (EPER) project to help communities and governments in FSM and RMI reduce risks, lessen the impact of disasters, and build resilience. Through the EPER project, IOM is assisting national and state disaster management teams to develop disaster response plans, strengthening intergovernmental coordination, and developing community disaster preparedness.
Improving Disaster Management Response and Coordination Systems
With USAID/OFDA funding, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is working with the RMI National Disaster Management Office to develop and institutionalize the Incident Command System (ICS) platform, thereby contributing to improved capacity to respond to emergencies. USFS activities include efforts to build Government of RMI capacity to conduct basic and intermediate ICS training courses and technical assistance for the country’s emergency operations center.
Palau Emergency Preparedness and Enhanced Resilience (PEPER)
USAID/OFDA supports IOM to implement the PEPER project, which seeks to contribute to the country’s preparedness and response capacity by strengthening evacuation shelters, training community leaders on shelter management, conducting response exercises, and pre-positioning emergency relief commodities. In partnership with the Government of Palau and the National Emergency Management Office, IOM is helping mitigate the effects of disasters by enhancing local capacities and ownership.
Papua New Guinea
Strengthening Early Warning and Preparedness
USAID/OFDA supports IOM to increase disaster preparedness and response in Papua New Guinea’s hazard-prone coastal, highland, and outer atoll communities. Program activities included support for improved community-based early warning systems and disaster risk management planning, as well as capacity-building measures for local and provincial authorities. IOM also supported small-scale projects intended to build resilience among local communities, rehabilitated boreholes, and conducted basic training in first aid.
Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP)
Implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey, VDAP provides technical assistance to national volcano monitoring organizations, including training in hazard assessment, early warning system development, and volcano monitoring equipment installation. With prior year funding, USGS continued to support the Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory and Rabaul Volcano Observatory in Papua New Guinea through VDAP, helping improve volcanic gas monitoring and warning systems.
Building Resilient Communities in Samoa
With $160,000 in FY 2019 funding, USAID/OFDA is supporting IFRC to increase the disaster risk management capacity of the Samoa Red Cross Society (SRC). Specifically, IFRC will work to reestablish sustainable administrative, financial, human resources, and management processes at SRC by providing technical support and training staff and volunteers.
Building Resilient Communities in Solomon Islands
USAID/OFDA is supporting IFRC to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities in the Solomon Islands and expand the ability of the Solomon Island Red Cross Society (SIRCS) to support disaster risk management and community-based health programs. The program aims to empower government agencies and targeted communities to assess and manage risks by conducting participatory capacity and vulnerability assessments, establishing village disaster response committees, and developing community action plans. Additionally, IFRC will support simulation exercises, train community members in first aid and hygiene best practices, and support the creation of community-based early warning systems during the two-year program.
Building Resilient Communities in Vanuatu
USAID/OFDA supports IFRC to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and enhance the capacity of the Vanuatu Red Cross Society (VRCS) to prepare for disasters, mobilize and train volunteers, and support community disaster response committees. By providing financial and technical support to VRCS, IFRC aims to expand the organization’s ability to identify and address risks and respond to disasters through a decentralized local disaster network, ensuring a sustainable program approach. Additionally, IFRC will conduct community risk assessments and develop local action plans based on assessment findings.