In early April of 2020, Tropical Cyclone Harold, which was categorised as a Category 5 cyclone, caused widespread destruction to the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Now, help is soon to be on its way to these countries, through their National Meteorological Services (NMSs), courtesy of funding from the Government of Ireland. The funding and assistance to the NMSs of Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, will be delivered through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), in its continued efforts to support Pacific Met services, through a partnership agreement with Irish Aid to support climate change response in the region.
Consultations between SPREP and Directors of NMSs in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu identified priority needs which require funding support in areas that were affected by TC Harold, and which are needed for building back better.
Important infrastructure, along with thousands of homes and businesses, were left damaged in the wake of TC Harold. This included equipment used by the NMSs to collect weather and climate data that is used to provide early warning, timely prediction and forecast information. As a result, these countries have been left even more vulnerable, and in dire need of assistance to replace and restore this critical equipment.
The NMSs put together a collective request for assistance through SPREP, in order to fund the repairs and replacement of damaged observation and communication equipment. Also included was a request from Vanuatu for assistance in rebuilding the weather station in Saratamata, which will provide weather data to inform community alerts and early warning for nearby airport operations.
In addition, support was also sought for funding to enable the hosting of community consultations and impact-based workshops in Tonga and Vanuatu. These workshops aim to map the impacts of TC Harold and identify lessons learned from early warning systems, in order to build back better in a more resilient manner.
The Director General of SPREP, Mr Kosi Latu, says, “The assistance we will be providing to these NMSs through Government of Ireland funding comes at an opportune time, as we reach the end of the 2019-2020 cyclone season.”
“The funding assistance will ensure that all necessary equipment and infrastructure that was damaged by Harold will be repaired and replaced in time for the next cyclone season. It will also enable consultations which will take a closer look at the impacts of cyclones on the community.”
“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Government of Ireland for the assistance provided to the Secretariat, in part to mobilise support to NMS who provide extremely important services in the Pacific on weather and climate” he concluded.
The Government of Ireland, through Irish Aid, has provided with grant funding to support achievement of the SPREP Performance Implementation Plan 2019/20, and will be used by SPREP in respect of achievement of specific climate change resilience objectives of that Plan. This includes support to enhance NMS’s capacity in weather forecasting, early warning systems, long-term projections, and improved climate services to support members’ decision-making and coordination through the Pacific Meteorological Council.
Tropical Cyclone Harold was one of eight tropical cyclones which crossed the Exclusive Economic Zones of the South Pacific this cyclone season. Tropical Cyclones Rita, Sarai, Tino, Uesi, Vicky, Wasi, and Gretel also wreaked havoc across the Pacific islands, highlighting the need for ongoing work to build Pacific resilience.
For more information, please contact the Pacific Met Desk team at PacMetDesk@sprep.org.