Our partner in Vanuatu is the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOMV).

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has a population of about 280,000 people spread across about 65 of the nation’s 80 islands. Vanuatu is ranked 134 out of 188 nations on the Human Development Index. Vanuatu is also the world’s most at-risk country in terms of vulnerability to natural disasters and ability to recover.

More than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas scattered across multiple, remote islands. Additionally, there are more than 100 indigenous languages across the country. These factors make communications, transport and service delivery extremely challenging.

Opportunities for unskilled labourers to find ongoing and meaningful work, particularly in the outlying islands, are extremely limited, especially for women. While women contribute to growing and selling food, more needs to be done to help them take control of their own income generation and how they use it.

Most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water, and climate change is impacting vulnerable communities through cyclones, torrential downpours and tidal changes resulting in flooding.

Many people are not connected to the electricity grid, and in many places people rely on kerosene lamps for light. These are dangerous and polluting, and place great strain on a family’s limited finances. Every year these lamps burn 2.5 million people and cause hundreds of thousands of related deaths. Inhaling their fumes is also akin to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Violence against women and children is a serious issue – in the Pacific, 60 percent of women and girls have experienced violence at the hand of an intimate partner or family member. The problem is exacerbated by high unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of institutional support.

The Anglican Church of Melanesia is leading the Safe, Resilient Communities Program.

Commencing in July 2019, the work has two areas of focus:

  1. Transforming community knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and practices towards gender-based violence, communities learn knowledge and skills by sharing information within their social networks.
  2. Preparing communities to respond to the impacts of disasters, focusing on the protection of vulnerable people.

The work targets both community leaders and community members. Community leaders are trained as facilitators in gender-based violence and then train their community members.

The Drop-In centre, located in Luganville, is a well-known community building, placed within the main church headquarters in Luganville. This aims to become a hub for gender equity, with the centre staffed by Church leaders trained in pastoral care.

The centre offers activities and a safe space for all members of the community to discuss awareness and participate in workshops about human equity, taking a culturally appropriate approach to family violence, and engaging men, women and youth.

The work focuses on rural and peri-urban communities in central and northern Vanuatu, where violence against women is common. As many as 72% of women experience physical and sexual violence in their life time.

As a prominent Church deeply embedded in local communities, ACOMV is uniquely placed to play a key role in advocating, leading and supporting sustainable change in the area of gender-based violence.

ACOMV is able to work with community and church leadership (the main influencers within their communities) while also working with existing networks that reach out to the most remote communities. They are able to disseminate awareness and training programs through these existing networks, working directly at the grassroots level.

Support of Disaster Risk Management Coordinator

In collaboration with a number of other Anglican agencies, we are supporting the Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for ACOMV.

The ACOMV Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Coordinator is responsible for the overall management of ACOMV’s disaster risks management initiatives in Vanuatu. These include Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), emergency response, and recovery.

The DRM Coordinator is responsible for preparing for, responding to, and coordinating recovery from all hazards which may affect the country. Two of the potentially most damaging of these are tropical cyclones and El Nino-related drought.

Effective DRR is more than just preparing for potential disasters; it comprises a range of initiatives closely aligned to the 2015-30 Sustainable Development Goals, issues such as good governance, economic and social development with a strong emphasis on poverty reduction; food and water security; environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation.

Ambae volcano response

We are also working with ACOM to respond to a humanitarian emergency caused by volcanic activity which forced the evacuation of the entire population of 10,000 people of Ambae Island and has supported the repatriation and resilience building of the communities from late 2017. Volcanic activity continued into 2018 and ACOM is partnering with other local churches and the government to support relocation of communities as well as long-term reliance on building and community planning to adapt to the environment on Ambae and nearby islands.

Through the Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations (CAN DO) partnership, Anglican Overseas Aid and ACOM are working with the Adventist Development Relief Agency as well as with other local churches to utilise grassroots church structures to improve information sharing with the government on how to live with an active volcano and on the protection of women and children in crisis.

Funding: The Safe, Resilient Communities Program was initially funded by the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) in 2019/20 and is now funded by small grants and donations from the Australian public. The Disaster Risk Management Coordinator and the Ambae volcano response are funded solely by donations from the Australian public.