20 April 2015 - Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu as an extremely destructive category 5 cyclone on the evening of 13 Mar 2015, causing serious damage to infrastructure and leaving debris strewn across the capital. The Category 5 cyclone affected around 166,000 people (or 60% of the total national population) on 22 islands. Emergency reports indicated Approximately 15,000 homes having been destroyed or damaged throughout the provinces of Penama, Malampa, Shefa (Home to the capital, Port Vila) and Tafea (most populous province with Lenakel as its administrative capital and municipality).
In response to the devastating tropical cyclone, the UN system declared a Level X emergency.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs requested UN-Habitat support for an initial 3 months to assist with strategic guidance and post-disaster planning with a particular emphasis on urban and densly-populated peri-urban settlements. UN-Habitat deployed 2 advisors to work with the Ministry and support the newly established Shelter Cluster.
The Participatory Slum/Settlement Upgrading Programme (funded by EU/ACP) provided the platform for immediate response given its focus on urban situational analysis with a focus on housing in 3 urban centres. An established relationship with national partners that include stakeholders addressing urban (climate) resilience (UN-Habitat’s Cities and Climate Change Initiative had finalized a draft Vulnerability Assessment (PDF 1.5MB) which has proven useful to the disaster response and security of tenure and improved access to safe and affordable housing and basic urban services is proving a useful foundation to position meaningful response to shelter needs and longer term housing security and community-driven responses.
In the first 4 weeks of the disaster response, UN-Habitat in partnership with the national government has contributed to humanitarian coordination assistance, provided inputs to multiple clusters and tiers of government, worked with the “Youth Challenge Programme to augment urban housing assessments to better inform mid to long term housing responses.
Shelter and Settlements Recovery Advisory support is also extended through UN-Habitat partnership with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).
UN-Habitat is now utilising the more detailed assessments and information that will be forthcoming to work with national and development partners to develop a “building back better and safer programme” that looks at community driven housing and community infrastructure recovery and the development of an urban housing strategy and local resilience plans.
UN-Habitat is now mobilizing resources to support the transition from the emergency to recovery phase to build sustainable and resilient human settlements with and for the affected communities.