To coordinate the local response to Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands on March 13, the Anglican Church of Melanesia-Vanuatu (ACOM-V) has convened a Disaster Committee chaired by The Rt. Rev. James Ligo of the Diocese of Vanuatu and co-chaired by Joses Togase, ACOM-V's Deputy General Secretary.
The Disaster Committee is charged with developing and overseeing the Church's storm response and coordinating with the National Disaster Management Office, maximizing the impact of ACOM-V's resources by providing services not already covered by government or other agencies.
"The Church's presence in very remote areas is an asset both to those communities and to the government and international agencies working on the storm response," said Nagulan Nesiah, Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction. "One of the most affected areas on the remote island of Pentecost was assessed by an ACOM priest who walked a full day and back to visit the area. Church networks such as the Mothers' Union and Parish Wardens have been vitally important in aiding ACOM's own planning and in contributing accurate information to the NDMO for coordination."
The Anglican Alliance convened a call on March 31 with ACOM-Solomon Islands and ACOM-Vanuatu, as well as international partners such as Episcopal Relief & Development and Anglican Board of Mission-Australia (ABM), to discuss the response and coordinate support. The short-term relief phase will bring food and water purification kits to communities in the provinces of Penama and Torba, east and north of the large island of Espiritu Santo, respectively. ACOM will work with the NDMO, which is also liaising with the World Food Program and other agencies, using government transportation vessels where possible.
Medium- and long-term plans may include working with the government's department of agriculture to provide seeds and equipment to restore crop production, and installing rain-water tanks and sanitary toilets to ensure health and protect the environment. Clergy will provide counseling and psychosocial support throughout the rebuilding and recovery process.
"ACOM staff and clergy are extremely committed to the well-being of their communities, and it is our aim to support that with helpful tools and technical assistance," Nesiah said. "Just before the storm, we had been discussing with them the 'Pastors and Disasters' toolkit, which not only guides churches toward how they can best help those in need following a disaster, but also equips them to ensure that their new structures and systems will be disaster resistant. Our prayers and support will accompany them as they rebuild and recover."
Episcopal Relief & Development offers prayer resources for solidarity with those who are responding to and recovering from disaster. To support disaster response where it is most needed, please donate to the Disaster Response Fund.