Feminist collaboration leads to a first joint localised humanitarian response in Vanuatu


“TC Harold really made a big damage. Elderly and people with disabilities are still living in evacuation center. There are no thatch leaves to rebuild their homes. There’s a shortage of tarpaulins. While some churches leaders are urging them to return to their homes but where will they go? Nothing is left for them to survive. So many challenges faced by people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.”

As Nellie Caleb of the Vanuatu Disability Promotion & Advocacy Association (VDPA) shared her update from Santo on April 30th, the Shifting the Power Coalition Response Team was organizing to leave Port Vila to meet up with Nellie before departing together for Malo Island:

“From the plane the sight below us was horrible! It was a terrifying sight, seeing the damage caused by TC Harold on Santo and nearby islands. Trees are uprooted, houses and plantations of coconut trees crushed. As we landed we spotted small signs of life coming returning – trees growing back their leaves. But as we travelled through town we can see people are clearly traumatized, they look sad and in shock,” reports Shifting the Power Coalition deployment team member Anne Pakoa

The team has acquired drinking water buckets to be delivered to affected communities in Malo one of the most affected areas to continue to respect and operationalise COVID19 hand washing policy as well as prepared documentation for the consultation.

“Excellent technical support and advice was provided by Carol Angir, ActionAid’s Program Manager for Women’s Rights and Emergencies. All documents needed for the consultation visit were printed, photocopied and packed in a sealed large plastic container,” says Pakoa.

Despite logistical challenges from the bank to the airline and a misplaced carton of documents the members of the Shifting the Power Coalition – ActionAid Vanuatu (AAV), Vanuatu Young Women for Change (VYWC) and Vanuatu Disability Promotion & Advocacy Association (VDPA) are demonstrating what is possible when local women leaders are supported to mobilise:

“Malo’s main organiser on the ground who came to meet us at the airport had to spend the night with us because it was late to catch a boat back to Malo. As it was raining, windy and dark, we were advised by our Malo woman leader, not to travel as it was risky travelling across to Malo at that time of the night with the bad weather. Flora had bought some lunch and dinner for 3 and therefore we all had that for tea,” says Anne as she describes the challenges on the ground including lack of affordable motel rooms. “We paid 7500 vatu each for our hotel rooms,” and by the end of the evening the produce brought in from Port Vila for the local communities were safely stored in the Hotel Santo cooler room.

By May 1st, the Shifting the Power Coalition deployment team – Flora Vano, Anne Pakoa, Nellie Caleb and Linda Kennie had finalised arrangements including a working partnerships with Santo Rural Water Supply and Santo Rural Health. A programme was finalized for consultation visits by Vanuatu Young Women for Change with Constitutional Members in South Malo as well as the Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) consultation programme for women’s groups from East and West Malo were finalised.