For many in the region, climate change impacts are already a part of daily life.
Some communities experience water shortages and drought, while others contend with floods and landslides. Communities elsewhere may experience all of the above, depending on the time of the year.
As temperatures rise, cyclones and storms are predicted to increase in severity, while rising oceans, coastal erosion and health impacts will present new challenges.
Each time a climate-related disaster strikes, it threatens human life, health, shelters, livelihoods, food security, infrastructure, the environment and more, making sustainable development harder to reach. When communities are facing frequent or recurring disasters, it becomes even more difficult to get ahead. Inequality deepens, while poverty can become more entrenched. Vulnerable groups, such as people with disability, are particularly at risk.
The Australian Humanitarian Partnership responds to disasters when they occur, leveraging Australian Government resources to support NGOs to assist those in need, and to alleviate human suffering.
But just as important as disaster response is preparedness: by supporting communities, governments and civil society to build resilience, and to get ready before disaster strikes, many lives can be saved.
This is where the AHP’s Disaster READY program comes in. Across Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, the program works to strengthen disaster preparedness and management, and to ensure vulnerable groups such as women and people with disabilities are included in planning and response. The program is supported by the Australian Government.
Disaster READY partners are engaging in a wide range of preparedness activities across the region.
Keep scrolling to see some examples.
In Timor-Leste, with the support of CAN DO (Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations) and Caritas, more than 70 local communities have developed Action Plans to plant trees along riverbanks and to build retaining walls. These actions reduce inundation and erosion from seasonal flooding, protecting homes and gardens.
(Photo: Chief Afonso Doutel Sarmento leads planting of bamboo along the riverbank in his village of Baria Laran.)
In Vanuatu, Community Disaster and Climate Change Committees (CDCCCs) are developing disaster and response plans for cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. A handbook released earlier this year with the support of Disaster READY and in conjunction with Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office empowers CDCCCs with deeper knowledge to support their preparedness.
In Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, schools and surrounding communities have been creating disaster maps through the ‘DRR Champions of Tomorrow’ program, marking out evacuation areas and hazards while considering the needs of vulnerable groups, such as women, children and people with disability.
Across all countries, Disaster READY partners work closely with disabled person's organisations to ensure the needs and perspectives of people with disability are included in disaster responses, and preparedness.
Other Disaster READY activities include...
Strengthening food security through climate-resilient agriculture.
(Photo: Elda learned techniques to preserve water sources, seed stocks and food for the region’s long dry stretches, and to more effectively plant crops, through Disaster READY climate-smart agriculture training.)
The development of community-designed early warning systems.
(Photo: In Viqueque, Timor-Leste, community member Merlinda Menezes explains how the river water level measurement system is used. The markers show residents whether it is safe to cross the river, or if villages downstream are at risk of flooding.)
"Disasters are everyone's business"
Globally, those who have contributed least to climate change are being hit the hardest. Climate change is increasing the complexity, and the number, of humanitarian responses, amid the global challenge of COVID-19.
Despite the determined efforts of communities across the Pacific to better prepare for the impacts of climate change and to build resilience, an international effort is needed to address the climate challenge.
#TheHumanRace for climate action involves us all.