An evaluation of the Australian government's response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015 has found it was largely successful.

The evaluation by the Office of Development Effectiveness said Australia's response was effective, timely and worked in closely with with the priorites set out by the Vanuatu government.

It did make recommendations to improve the responses to future disasters including providing help for local businesses and increasing the use of cash payments to victims.

The Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says she's pleased with the findings and the government has adopted the recommendations.

[Source of introduction: ABC Pacific Beat]

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: It showed our strong coordination of our civil and military response, and so this ensured that our overall assistance was coherent and effective. The report shows that we made strategic use of the different partners, we moved quickly, we delivered assistance efficiently, food and safe drinking water were supplied to about a quarter of the population, and of course households were given those vitally important supplies to repair shelters, the emergency health centres and the key infrastructure. In the end we are very pleased with the report. There are a series of recommendations, and what is the thing that is really important in doing and assessment of this nature- an evaluation of this nature- is to learn from the various disasters that happened.  We learnt from Tropical Cyclone Pam, we learnt from Tropical Cyclone Winston and now we are able to utilise that in what we now do and will do in the future, because we know we live in an area which is so disaster prone that there will be another cyclone, there will be another disaster.

LIAM FOX: On that subject, one of the things that the evaluation highlighted was that Australia’s work in disaster preparedness before the cyclone helped to ameliorate some of the effects of that cyclone, and meant that the Vanuatu Government in particular, was better placed to respond to it. That must be particularly pleasing?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well it is because one of the things that we want to do is build up the capacity of the governments to prepare. It is one of the things that we discussed at the last Pacific Island Forum Meeting, but it is something that specifically Australia places great importance on, our ongoing efforts to help Pacific neighbours.  

LIAM FOX: Now as you mentioned, the report does make some recommendations to further improve Australia’s response to future disasters. One of those is the increased use of cash payments to victims. The report notes that Australia DFAT was looking to do that during Cyclone Pam, but it was not one of the Vanuatu Government’s priorities. How can you see cash payments being used more in future?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well this will be investigated further; they were used during Cyclone Winston in Fiji. Obviously cash payments help people meet their own needs, and obviously stimulate local business immediately afterwards. We have begun exploring opportunities to increase cash interventions in the Pacific, and it talks about a scoping study by the Cash Learning Partnership in 2016, and it also makes a note- a guidance note- on cash transfer programming being revised in 2017. This is the practicalities of looking at this, I think given the work that we are doing, this guidance note on cash transfer programming will be a useful tool.

LIAM FOX: Another recommendation is to increase the amount of assistance given to small and medium local businesses, that would seem to fit in with your governments focus on development through economic means. How do you think that could be achieved?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: This is a key result of our strategy, and we have actually set out in the report ways that we are going to look at that and support the resuscitation of markets and livelihoods, drawing on the experience gained particularly during Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji. Let me give you a very good example; I went up to Raki Province in the North, and one of the areas that was hit was a market, a very important market because of course, not only for the livelihood of that area, but for a lot of women selling their produce at markets is very important. In this area we not only have built back the market, but we have also built back an accommodation block next to the market, so that the women can not only come to market to bring their goods but they can stay overnight, particularly if they have got children. So that is a very practical example of where you can help businesses on the ground. We will also look at things like helping businesses take out insurance, and as I said earlier the use of cash grants so that local businesses can continue to trade.       

Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555