Political stability necessary for drought response in Vanuatu
A representative of the UN children's agency UNICEF says Vanuatu needs political stability for good decisions to be made over the drought situation which will last for months.
A representative of the UN children's agency UNICEF Karen Allen says Vanuatu needs political stability for good decisions to be made over the drought situation which will last for months.
She says UNICEF has been worried recent political events might affect the government's response to the drought's worsening effects which include illness and malnutrition.
Ms Allen told Sally Round the events of the last couple of weeks haven't so far hindered the distribution of aid or other responses including recent assessments.
KAREN ALLEN: At the community level in the assessments we've seen an increase in the number of children who are either moderately acutely malnourished or borderline. Our sample is only a little over 100 children and not nationally representative, but the levels in terms of international standard is well below emergency threshold levels, nevertheless it's very concerning.
SALLY ROUND: Last time we spoke there was evidence of this having an effect on children's education. Any more developments there, Karen?
KA: Yes, the minister of education has approved a scheme to go ahead and increase the amount of money that is sent to school management committees so that each school can decide where they need to do quick investments, whether it be in water or buying food to distribute at schools. We know there's only about less than two months of school left and the children have already missed a lot of time in school, so I can say that sadly this is a very bad year for primary and secondary school students in the affected areas because they will have great difficulties now to pass their end-of year exams attendance rates are way down and there's always the fear that when attendance goes down it turns into dropouts. We also have information about families now using the traditional coping mechanism of just sending their children off-island to stay with friends and relatives on other islands where there is access to both water and food.
SR: And is that a good solution to the problem do you think?
KA: If I were a parent, that's what I would do. But it raises other risks for children such as protection, risk, separation from family, psychosocial risk, and also it's not clear when they go to stay with friends and family that they'll be able to fit into the school there.
SR: We've seen a couple of weeks now of political turmoil in Vanuatu. How is that affecting distribution of aid to people?
KA: Thankfully it does not seem to be affecting distribution of aid or any other responses. We were certainly worried about that, but what we can see is the civil servants in Vanuatu are really to be commended - they carry on no matter what's happening at the political level. But having said that, I think there's a very strong awareness that this is a very long-run problem, it's not like a cyclone that comes once and hits and you respond, we have to come together on long-run solutions for the next six months at least.
SR: And that's going to involve who to get those long-running solutions?
KA: I don't think that the government can do it entirely alone, I think there will need to be agreement with the donors and some of the humanitarian actors on reapportioning money that was meant for cyclone response plans into immediate drought relief, and that will indeed require some political decisions.
SR: And that could be tricky with the present situation in there politically.
KA: Political stability would be needed for good decisions to be made at the policy level, that's for sure.
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