Vanuatu at high risk for future disasters
The chair of the New Zealand Disaster Relief Forum says there is an urgent need for Vanutu to be rebuilt stronger than ever following Cyclone Pam, as it is the most disaster-prone country in the world.
The chair of the New Zealand Disaster Relief Forum says there is an urgent need for Vanuatu to be rebuilt stronger than ever following Cyclone Pam, as it is the most disaster-prone country in the world.
Ian McInnes, who is also chief executive officer of Tearfund, says the price of the rebuild following Cyclone Pam will be huge, with crude estimates by the World Bank at upwards of $100 million US.
Mary Baines asked him how long it would take for Vanuatu to recover.
IAN MCINNNES: To put a timeframe on it, I was involved in the Asian tsunami, and the repair to Haiti after the earthquake, and both of these were five to eight year rebuilds. So I would say it is three to five years at the minimum. It depends how fast the government and aid agencies can move and programme that funding. It's not quite as complex and as vast, and certainly there's not the population numbers of Haiti or the Asian tsunami countries, but it will certainly take time. If it is over $180 million, let's say the first assessment is around $180 million, that would be a quarter of GDP. And so that will do damage to the Vanuatu government budget. So Vanuatu can't really afford that, and yet amazingly it has to tolerate this every year. On average, Vanuatu loses seven percent of GDP to cyclones every year. And to tell you why, they've had 124 cyclones in 70 years, one hurricane-force cyclone every 1.7 years. So sadly this is a regular occurrence for them. They are extremely disaster prone. The UN's world risk index puts them at the top, the top of 171 countries. They come out at number one, with the Philippines coming in at number two, and Tonga at number three, Solomon Islands at number six. Pacific Islands are immensely vulnerable. When you add that to their coping capabilities, their vulnerability, they top the list of vulnerable countries on this planet.
MARY BAINES: So what can be done to prepare Vanuatu for future disasters?
IM: We must, the term in the industry, is to build back better. We must get things back stronger than they were. So that will come down to as crude as simple house designs, and whether roofs are strapped down, whether they are weighted during cyclones, whether water structures, in many cases, it's just sort of rainwater tanks off houses, but whether they're anchored, whether the roof is secure and will stay there. Schools need to double as evacuation centres right across the country. The homes really aren't up to the job and in a severe cyclone people are better off to migrate to the school and then come out, and even if their homes and crops are gone sadly, you know, they themselves will still be alive. So the opportunity is now with this funding to make improvements right across the islands in the Polynesia, Melanesia group. Funding needs to be spent on improving these things ahead of what is inevitable - more cyclones and a greater intensity of them. And this is really not just predicted, but we are seeing this happen now and the record is simply greater, more powerful cyclones due to the slightly warmer climate they face. So the onus is on us, they didn't create the problem of a warmer world but it is really ours to help solve with them now so they can stand up to these fierce storms.
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