Bridging the Climate Change Information Gap

Eight tropical cyclones crossed the Exclusive Economic Zones of the South Pacific this 2019 – 2020 tropical cyclone season that officially ended in April. In Meteorological terms, this is known as a ‘near normal’ season according to a SPREP report ( Tropical Cyclones Rita, Sarai, Tino, Uesi, Vicky, Wasi, Gretel and Harold wreaked havoc across the Pacific islands highlighting the need for ongoing work to build Pacific resilience.


“The impacts of climate and weather on our Pacific people are real. Our livelihoods and our lives depend on how we can best prepare for those impacts. The work of our Pacific Met Services and partners through the Pacific Met Desk Partnership plays a crucial role in helping people prepare,” said Ms Tagaloa Cooper, Director of Climate Change Resilience programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP): “Working collectively together, we can strengthen the services we provide to our Pacific island people – we are very grateful for the PacMetDesk Partnership mechanism. Our thoughts are with all our Pacific communities who have been heavily impacted by any of the cyclones that have crossed their paths this season.”

A recent IPS report highlights how the Women’s Wetem Weta (Women’s Weather Watch (WWW)) hub in Port Vila bridged the information gap for women as cyclone TC Harold raged towards the Republic of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean on April 5.

As women leaders receive the information from the hub they mobilise other women and youth to help widows, the physically challenged and older people secure their roofs, store food and clean water, secure documents in air tight containers, and move those in unsafe houses to the local school serving as an evacuation centre.

ActionAid Vanuatu’s country programme manager, Flora Vano told IPS from the WWW hub in the country’s capital, Port Vila, the hub is a message bank, where information received from the Meteorological Department and women leaders is stored and shared: “It is a two-way communication process which is enabling women to become leaders in disaster planning and adaptation. For example, women leaders will message the hub that a cyclone is approaching and we don’t have water supply. We relay this information to the Department of Water so they can help the community. Similarly, women will message about crops being damaged by a pest. We convey this information to the Department of Agriculture, who in turn informs us of what the community needs to do or they will send officials on the ground to ensure food security,” Vano said.

The messaging service, a combination of SMS and in-person for remote areas, has reached 77,000 people or nearly a quarter of Vanuatu’s population.

ActionAid Vanuatu’s Woman Wetem Weta programme is therefore giving women in remote areas access to appropriate timely information, and building their capacity and confidence to communicate complex scientific weather and climate information from the Meteorological Department in simple “disaster ready” warnings to prepare for cyclones, floods, droughts and volcanic eruptions.

ActionAid Australia as a member of the Shifting the Power Coalition (StPC), is supporting a regional alliance of 13 women-led civil society organisations from six Pacific Forum member countries, through training, network building and research to ensure women’s rights and needs are addressed in climate change and humanitarian disaster response.

***Through support from DFAT’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Programme the Shifting the Power Coalition is able to promote Pacific women’s leadership in humanitarian action, including locally-led innovations. And through DFAT’s Australia Pacific Climate Partnership our new program on Young Women and Climate Change will support the knowledge, leadership and engagement of a core group of young Pacific Island women to engage in climate services and climate change advocacy.