Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Planning ahead for early action in the Pacific: disaster-manager forum in Nadi, Fiji

10/09/2019 - by Tricia Wilden, Climate Centre, Suva Fiji

Disaster managers from 13 Pacific National Societies met in Nadi, Fiji at the end of last month to discuss priorities for building resilience and strengthening disaster preparedness, response and recovery, including preparing for the 2019–20 cyclone season and reviewing the current status of El Niño.

A consensus emerged over the “value of reliable climate information from national meteorological services in reducing risk for people and communities vulnerable to extreme or deficient rainfall,” one participant said.

Early warning early action was a key focus, especially the Early Action Rainfall Watch bulletins now being routinely issued in (alphabetically) the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

“The information contained in the national EAR Watch is an important tool for guiding our work across the country,” said Lussinda Nawayap, Disaster Management Coordinator at the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society.

“When I receive it each month, I contact the met service to verify its content and convey its implications to the 14 branches so volunteers are informed and can undertake appropriate preparedness activities in communities.”

‘This builds their confidence to lead from the branch level
in covering “the last mile” to communities’

Participants identified the EAR Watch as an important component of decentralisation.

Augustine Garae, Disaster Management Coordinator at the Vanuatu Red Cross Society explained that bulletins are sent to branches and volunteers who are then encouraged to liaise with the met service and disaster managers about the best way to respond: “[They make sure to] keep us at headquarters informed and notifying us if a national response is required.

“This builds their confidence to work with partners and lead from the branch level in covering ‘the last mile’ to communities.”

The Fiji Red Cross Society’s Disaster Coordinator Maciu Nokelevu said increasing the reach of the EAR Watch and local understanding of its content would improve decision-making and actions at every level:
“[This is] especially important when we have been advised to expect conditions that are wetter or dryer than normal.”

The meeting also heard calls for Red Cross actions related to EAR Watch bulletins to be fully institutionalized; for instance, by developing standard operating procedures and pre-emptively identifying resources to support early actions when advisories are received.

Identifying Red Cross actions in response to anticipated above- or below-normal rainfall “will strengthen preparedness in Funafuti and our outer islands by supporting a more effective response and reducing the risk to communities in the face of climate events such as El Niño,” said Tusi Finikaso, Disaster Management Officer at the Tuvalu Red Cross Society.

Outputs from the Nadi forum related to the EAR Watch will be shared with stakeholders for planning for next year.

In Naviyago Bila village in Fiji, Red Cross volunteer Viliame stands in front of a river embankment the National Society has been helping build to protect against floods. The water level is rising and it can be no more than a temporary measure, but now in the Pacific there is a better chance of seeing what’s round the corner in terms of weather and climate. (Photo: Benoit Matsha-Carpentier/IFRC)