Vanuatu has a population of 272,264 people (2015 estimate) spread across 80 inhabited islands with approximately 75% of the population based in rural settings. This broad spread of islands and population creates access difficulties particularly in response to disaster and delivery of relief and first aid to outer islands.
Vanuatu is exposed to a range of hazards due to both being surrounded by ocean and being located on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’. In 2015, Vanuatu’s disaster risk was made very clear as Tropical Cyclone Pam smashed into the country in March. This category 5 cyclone was the most intense to cross land in Vanuatu in recorded history and caused devastating damage. However, cyclones are only one of the hazards affecting the country. Others include floods, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides. With climate change affecting the country, it is expected that the intensity of weather events is likely to increase in the future.
Historically, Vanuatu has demonstrated resilience to natural hazards and an ability to rebuild its subsistence economy and societies, using traditional knowledge and external disaster relief and other development assistance. However, the capacity of Vanuatu to effectively deal with the impacts of major disasters remains fragile, particularly as traditional knowledge is increasingly threatened. The possibility of achieving sustainable development, including the reduction of poverty, is recognised as being threatened due to the impact of hazards on vulnerable communities and economies.
Vanuatu was an early mover among its Pacific peers in establishing both a national action plan for disaster risk reduction and disaster management (NAP), and a national adaptation programme for action on climate change (NAPA). Since their instigation, recognition of the strong links between DRM and CCA has grown. This recognition has led to development of the National Advisory Board on DRR and CCA (NAB) with a joint DRR and CCA national governance mandate. Disaster response and preparedness arrangements continue to be led by the NDMO.