Reducing vulnerability in Pacific communities – FINPAC

A three-year project to reduce Pacific nations’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change has just wrapped up after being successfully implemented in eight Pacific countries.

The FINPAC project was funded by the Government of Finland and coordinated through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Starting in March 2014, the project helped small island communities to better understand local weather and climate information, and to build resilience towards changing weather patterns. It was implemented in one community in each of eight countries - the Cook Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

In Tonga, remote Mo’unga’one island was chosen for the project. The island community of 104 people was badly affected by Tropical Cyclone Ian in January, 2015. The project helped villagers set up a disaster committee, provided first aid and emergency response training, installed VHS radios, a risk map signboard and a siren and also created an evacuation route.

One of Mo’unga’one’s disaster committee members said relaying disaster messages was now easier because the community and disaster committee now had the same understanding of preparedness and a better understanding of roles and responsibilities.

“We are so encouraged by the FINPAC project which enables us to fulfil our duty to the community and the people of Mo'unga'one,” he said.

In Tuvalu the project helped the people of Teone community increase their knowledge of hazards and climate risks in their community and what they can do in order to minimise their vulnerability.

“The project has also strengthened the working relationship that Tuvalu Red Cross has with the Tuvalu Disaster Relief Unit (NDMO) and Tuvalu Met Services,” said Tuvalu Red Cross Society’s Climate Change & Disaster Management Officer Tusi Finikaso.

In the Cook Islands, tsunami signs were installed, and the evacuation plan was tested with two simulation exercises. Two cyclone evacuation centres were also upgraded and a community disaster committee is now in place.

The FINPAC project also partnered National Meteorological Services (NMS) with the Red Cross National Societies and facilitated National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) to work with communities and villages to develop early warning systems.

Noel Sanau of the Solomon Islands Meteorological Service said the most significant change was Met Service visibility in the community which helped increase the community’s understanding of weather information.

IFRC’s disaster risk reduction manager Lesu Waqaniburotu said the project was a great success and it was gratifying to see the real differences it made to many people’s lives.

“This project will save lives in the future. All eight communities installed early warning systems, it’s a practical step they took which was a cheap effective way to make sure everyone is warned when a disaster is imminent,” he said.