This week, Tropical Cyclone Lola battered communities in the north of Vanuatu for over 24 hours becoming the third severe storm to hit the country this year, and the strongest cyclone ever experienced before official cyclone season begins in November.
Flora Vano, Country Manager at ActionAid Vanuatu, who is preparing a team to respond in Malekula, one of the worst affected islands, said: “We have received reports of extensive damage in the north of the country, including to homes, infrastructure, agriculture, vegetation, and water supplies. We are preparing to respond on the island of Malekula, where ActionAid works with a network of women leaders through the Women I Tok Tok Tugeta Network, who are trained in disaster preparedness and response. Our biggest priority will be ensuring the protection, safety and dignity of women and girls, including those with disability. Many women depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods, which has been decimated by the cyclone. As families face financial insecurity, we are expecting to see an increase in gender-based violence.”
Tropical Cyclone Lola is the earliest and strongest cyclone on record in the Southern hemisphere – a sign of what is to come as Pacific Island nations like Vanuatu bear the brunt of the climate crisis.
Teresa Anderson, Global Climate Justice Lead at ActionAid International, said: “Yet another devastating cyclone has hit Vanuatu this year – the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the country before November, forcing the nation to divert its resources once again to rebuilding and recovery efforts, even though the country has done so little to cause the climate crisis.”
Flora adds: “The climate crisis has us trapped in a cycle of prepare and respond, prepare, and respond leaving us with little time to recover after each new disaster. For our survival, we must now be prepared for the worst 24/7. This is almost impossible for communities like mine without greater commitments from world leaders to finance a Loss and Damage Fund and phase out fossil fuels.”
“As world leaders prepare to gather for COP28 in late November and negotiations on a Loss and Damage Fund stall, we are living through the realities of a rapidly warming world. My community, my country is facing the brunt of the climate crisis. Developed nations are failing us. The time for talking is over. We need action now.”
Countries like Vanuatu are in desperate need for the wealthiest countries that have done the most to heat the planet to provide real funds to help them pick up the pieces in the aftermath of climate disasters. Negotiations have taken place this year to develop the details of the long-hoped for Loss and Damage Fund, which will be finalised at COP28.
Teresa adds: “Sadly, the US and other developed countries have been aggressive in their efforts to weaken the Loss and Damage Fund, by denying their responsibility to contribute finance, and pushing for it to be hosted under the World Bank. Global South governments and civil society are united in their opposition to the World Bank playing such a powerful role, as it would likely distribute loans instead of grants, and perversely hand decision-making over to the wealthiest countries instead of the nations that need funds the most.”
Notes to editors
- Flora Vano, who is Country Manager at ActionAid Vanuatu
- Teresa Anderson, who is Global Climate Justice Lead at ActionAid International
Contact Milly Atkinson at [email protected] to arrange interviews.