SPC deploys scientific and technical experts to assist Vanuatu and Tuvalu


Satellite image: Damage to buildings in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Image created by Digital Globe & SPC Geoscience Division

Following requests from the governments of Vanuatu and Tuvalu for technical support, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is sending additional specialists to assist both countries with their cyclone Pam recovery efforts.

It forms part of a comprehensive response package to cyclone Pam being developed by SPC to support Pacific Community members.

Tomorrow SPC will deploy a post-disaster management specialist, Anthony Blake, to Port Vila, who will be based with Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office to assist with the government’s coordination of their national response.

Mr Blake, an SPC officer with the Pacific Islands Emergency Management Alliance, will also act as SPC’s central coordinator in Vanuatu, working closely with the government, UN agencies and the Red Cross.

Deep concerns have been raised by the Vanuatu Fisheries Department following their preliminary assessment of damage to hatcheries, as well as prawn and fish farms, which require urgent attention to alleviate food security and nutrition issues, given fish is a primary source of dietary protein in Vanuatu.

From this weekend, two SPC aquaculture specialists, Robert Jimmy and Jone Varawa, will reinforce the SPC team based permanently in Port Vila to assist Vanuatu’s Fisheries Department with assessments around Efate and other islands with aquaculture operations, expected to include Espirito Santo and Tanna.

With a state of emergency still in place in Tuvalu, three SPC specialists are due on the ground there today.

Peter Sinclair and Joy Papao, from SPC’s Water and Sanitation Programme, will provide technical support to the Tuvaluan National Disaster Management Office at the request of the government’s Disaster Management Committee, by contributing to the immediate technical support for water and sanitation and to scope out how SPC can best provide assistance in the immediate and longer term.

An officer from SPC’s Land Resources Division, Sainimili Baiculacula, will assist with the government’s assessment of damage to crops and of broader impacts on the agricultural sector in Tuvalu’s outer islands.

“The governments of the Pacific nations impacted by tropical cyclone Pam have taken ownership in responding to cyclone Pam based on their well-established mechanisms to coordinate disaster response efforts,” SPC Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.

“Our scientific and technical experts will be lending a hand based on the specialised assistance our members need and that we are best placed to offer in the early recovery period, and for the long haul.

“Our substantial effort will be in working with our member governments and international organisations, such as the World Bank, to map out an objective and well-planned post-disaster needs assessment for Vanuatu in particular,” he said.

This week GIS and disaster assessment experts at SPC have been analysing satellite images of Vanuatu provided by an American company SPC partners with, Digital Globe, to compare before and after satellite images of population centres in Vanuatu.

The SPC team is generating a set of approximately 20 maps in which visible damage to buildings and other infrastructure is being categorised. The maps will be mainly for use by the Vanuatu Government.

Dr Tukuitonga said that food security for communities on remote outer islands and rural areas in Vanuatu and Tuvalu were pressing concerns.

“Most families who depend heavily on their local crops will find it difficult in the coming weeks. The availability of animal protein from the communities will be difficult because of the chickens and other domesticated animals that were lost in the cyclone.

“As such the primary objective now is to determine ways to ensure that communities have access to a continued supply of fish protein and nutrition,” he said.

Media contact:
Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information and Communication Officer –[email protected]or + 687 260181 or 687 842837

On YouTube an interview with SPC’s Sainimili Baiculacula.

For more on SPC's comprehensive response to tropical cyclone Pam visit SPC's Cyclone Pam Response web page.

Media teleconference on SPC response to cyclone PAM:
Media are invited to participate by phone in a teleconference with Dr Colin Tukuitonga, SPC Director-General; Mr Cameron Diver, SPC Deputy Director-General, Operations and Management; and Mr Lindsay Chapman, Deputy Director, Fisheries Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division.
Topics that will be covered: the comprehensive response by SPC in collaboration with partners to support Pacific Community members impacted by cyclone Pam – in particular Vanuatu and Tuvalu. In particular this news teleconference will cover food security issues in Vanuatu in the wake of cyclone Pam with damage to hatcheries as well as prawn and fish farms.

Date: Friday, 20 March 2015
Time: 10:00 am̶10:45 am (Noumea time)

All media planning to participate in the teleconference (to be conducted in English only) are required to pre-register by emailing [email protected] or calling this number +687 260181 or +687 842837 and provide their telephone number before 8:00 a.m. (Noumea time) on Friday 20 March.

Pre-registered media are also requested to indicate whether they plan to ask questions, to assist the moderator and allow sufficient time for questions.