Communication in local languages vital in crisis situations
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Communication in local languages vital in crisis situations

As Pacific Island Governments work on a coordinated regional response to Covid-19, Tropical Cyclone Harold, which has already hit the Solomon Islands and bears down at category 5 level on Vanuatu, the region faces a stark reminder that climate-related disasters remain a major security threat. 

In the Solomon Islands, Shifting the Power Coalition national focal point, Lisa Horiwapu says that food, shelter and personal items are needed for communities most affected by the cyclone: “As the repatriation continued, TC Harold came along and brought yet another disaster. Food security is already a worry for mothers in Honiara because of possible lock down if the country has a confirmed Covid-19 case. TC Harold caused heavy rains and more damage to food gardens.” 

Information is vital for local communities says Horiwapu. This must be in local language, as well as accessible for people with disabilities and focus on reaching more remote communities. 

 In Vanuatu, Shifting the Power Coalition member, ActionAid Vanuatu has taken a leading role to ensure women are informed and prepared to respond to the twin threats of TC Harold and Covid-19. 

 “Through Women Wetem Weta (Women’s Weather Watch), Ni-Vanuatu women have been able to alert communities to the risk of Covid-19.  Now we are preparing our families and communities for the cyclone with the devastation caused by TC Pam fresh in our memories.  We are concerned though as communication with some of islands is already down,” said Flora Vano, Country Manager, ActionAid Vanuatu.   

“Young women are particularly vulnerable at this moment.  Many have already lost their daily wage through the closure of markets and food stalls as a result of Covid-19,” said Sabrina Brown, CEO of Vanuatu Young Women for Change, also a member of the STP Coalition. “This cyclone will only make the situation worse with an urgent need for financial assistance and food relief for already desperate families.” 

 “This situation is unprecedented and is an opportunity for the Pacific humanitarian response to be innovative and inclusive,” says Shifting the Power Coalition Technical Adviser, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, who is also the Pacific representative and Board Chair of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). 

 “Our network’s initial assessment, even before the onset of TC Harold had identified the need for bringing together peace, development and humanitarian agendas in line with the commitments of Pacific Forum Leaders to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, the Boe Declaration and the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific. This situation highlights how climate, health and economic crises are connecting and disproportionately impacting women’s lives.” 

The Shifting the Power Coalition brings together 13 women-led civil society organisations from six countries in the region with a focus on supporting women’s leadership in preparing for and responding to humanitarian crises. StPC members are currently on the ground promoting awareness of Covid-19 and hygiene measures, and are now mobilising in affected countries to respond to TC Harold, which is expected to impact on four countries in the region over the coming week. 



Photo above: Tropical Cyclone Harold rapidly intensifying between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu April 3, 2020. Image: National Hurricane Center/Wikimedia Commons


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