The Pacific region covers a vast geographical area comprising thousands of islands and atolls. The majority of Pacific Island countries contend with the challenges of smallness and geographic isolation. The Pacific Island countries are heavily aid-assisted.
Seventy-five per cent of all deaths in the Pacific are from non-communicable diseases (NCD) and indications are that NCD-related mortality and morbidity are rising. Additionally, many countries are still dealing with prevalence of communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, and the emerging threat of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. In Melanesia, the threat of gender-based violence has an impact on all aspects of women’s lives and increases their vulnerability to HIV. Increasing unemployment and underemployment are a major concern, especially for the region’s young people, women and people with disabilities.
A variety of hazards – including cyclones, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides – constitute a significant part of the vulnerability of Pacific Island countries. It is well established that the frequency and intensity of hydrometeorological events in the region is likely to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change. Small island countries have fragile water resources due to their small size, lack of natural storage, competition for land use, vulnerability to natural and manmade hazards, and urban pollution.
The 14 Red Cross National Societies of the Pacific are well positioned to play an increasingly significant role in times of disasters and crisis, and in helping to meet the health and social challenges of the region. Through their local volunteer-led branch networks, Red Cross societies have greater reach into communities than any other civil society actor. Through their disaster management, health and risk reduction programmes, the Pacific National Societies contribute to achieving national development objectives, including national Millennium Development Goals and the 2005–2010 Pacific Plan initiatives.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) regional office in the Pacific has developed its 2011 plan based on the objectives identified by its regional members. The focus of the 2011 plan is to support National Societies to become better functioning and to be well-governing civil society leaders. The IFRC in the Pacific hopes to provide regional National Societies with the ability to plan, resource and manage programmes that address the needs of the most vulnerable.
The goals, means of delivery and strategic framework of this Pacific region plan fit within the IFRC’s wider Asia Pacific zone strategy, guided by the IFRC’s newly adopted Strategy 2020. The priorities in the coming two years are to:
· build safer and more resilient communities through services to member National Societies that increase the reach and impact of their programmes · strengthen Red Cross Red Crescent mechanisms and networks that build mutual capacity, improve knowledge-sharing, and increase the leverage of the collective voice · influence changes in humanitarian policies and practices through improved access to and cooperation with governments and key institutions · diversify financial and human resources for the benefit of programmes at national level through a collective Red Cross Red Crescent approach · lead and coordinate zone, regional and country planning, performance and accountability mechanisms to increase Red Cross Red Crescent effectiveness and efficiency.
In 2011, the IFRC’s Pacific regional office will support Pacific National Societies with their activities related to preparing and responding to natural and human-made disasters. Climate change adaptation will continue to be an important component of National Society activities. An added dimension of this work will be their role in persuading governments to be better prepared legislatively in order to facilitate and regulate international disaster response.
A second axis of the support to National Societies will be in the area of primary health covering HIV and STI prevention, blood safety, community-based health and first aid, prevention of chronic diseases, water and sanitation and hygiene promotion.
The total budget for the IFRC’s Pacific Plan in 2011 has been revised to CHF 2.58 million from the original CHF2.24 million.