Tuvalu learns from Tropical Cyclone Pam for the future

Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated areas of Tuvalu as its winds ripped through the island nation in March. The impact on the island communities was considerable and recovery and rehabilitation continues especially in areas that were severely impacts. 45% of the population was displaced during the disaster with 90% of agriculture being decimated on the island of Nui.

To help understand the impact, learn from the disaster and improve disaster response for these communities into the future a Lessons Learned Workshop was hosted by the National Government of Tuvalu in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) and supported by the European Union and USAID. High chiefs, fale kaupule and representatives of communities including women and youth were included in this workshop to ensure a broad range of stories were collected to ensure the country can better respond to the increasing risk of disasters in the future.

The workshop allowed an ability to capture and translate the main issues that emerged with questions from island representatives on the response to cyclone Pam and rehabilitation moving forward along with an ability to review existing Disaster Management protocols and early warning systems for natural hazards along with results from the Rapid Assessment Team (RAT) that was on the ground post-disaster.

As a result, systematic action plans were established with clear understanding of the key areas that disaster agencies, community leaders and community members needed during disaster were identified. Individual commitments have to be improved and encouraged throughout Tuvalu.

Putting key leanings within the Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific project into direct action with the country responding to disaster has been critical in helping direct key priorities for the country and its management of future disasters. This workshop, with key agencies and actions in disaster preparedness and response will determine well understood priorities moving forward.

Priorities Identified

The key outcomes achieved through the Lessons Learnt Workshop ensured the needs of Tuvalu were clearly identified through effective stakeholder engagement and understanding the ground level impacts of Cyclone Pam. Capturing the needs of the Island were clearly identified across 7 areas below:
1. Improved Communications: Early Warning communications, improved technology to ensure real-time updates, more timely dissemination of information across an improved island network, FM radio installation on islands.
2. Assessments: Detailed damage and needs assessment survey forms to be developed to improve reporting responses from islands during disaster to ensure assessments can be completed as quickly as possible.
3. Planning/Preparedness: Increased training for risk reduction responses and operation procedures and drills with emergency staff, evacuation areas identified for community, emergency kit checklists, improved infrastructure of homes to be cyclone resistant, school curriculum to include understanding of sea level rise, emergency plans and disaster drills.
4. Governance/Disaster Risk Management arrangements: Disaster Risk Plans developed and implemented for all islands, review Island Disaster Committee roles and responsibilities, allocate budget for Island Disaster Committee’s monthly meeting.
5. Recovery: immediate recovery needs to badly damaged areas, development of compensation policy and responses to be implemented, heavy duty machinery to assist with cleaning of islands, mental health training (Psychosocial support – provide first responders with training to support and treat victims of disaster), increased agroforestry programme (i.e. more inter-cropping to ensure a variety of crops used to increase food security during disaster).
6. Relief: Proper storage and transport of relief supplies to Islands – sometimes received wet supplies therefore, ensure that any foodstuff taken to islands are fresh and edible.
7. Infrastructure: Health Centres to relocate especially those which are close to the coastal areas, improve electricity pillars on the islands, improve seawall constructions on the islands better than the former ones.