20 Mar 2015

Aid co-ordination difficult says Vanuatu government

7:11 am on 20 March 2015

Vanuatu government agencies will start delivering aid to victims of Cyclone Pam today, a week after the destructive storm hit the country.

Red Cross workers waiting to distribute aid in Port Vila, Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam

Red Cross workers waiting to distribute aid in Port Vila, Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Some agencies have begun distributing basic necessities in areas but a full-scale government delivery of supplies is still pending.

The government has been at pains to try and co-ordinate all aid coming into the country but the director general to the Ministry of Climate Change, Jotham Napat said they are nearly ready.

"I think we are almost there with all our plannings. It is all coming into shape and we are having our final meeting just to make sure everything is in shape tomorrow and then we are ready to distribute the relief supplies throughout all the country."

Jotham Napat also confirmed a state of emergency has been declared for all provinces in Vanuatu.

The Government said time has been lost trying to coordinate the delivery of aid provided by a large number of organisations.

Its disaster management authorities said they spent three days getting outside organisations, such as NGOs, to comply with government policy, aimed at having a standard approach to aid delivery.

The spokesperson of the National Disaster Management Office, Benjamin Shing, said aid groups often have their own systems and are reluctant to follow government instructions.

"The problem is visibility. Everybody wants to park a sign and say 'We did this!'. The Government acknowledges the fact that if they are humanitarian-based, then parking a sign on humanitarian assistance should not be a priority."

Benjamin Shing said while aid groups have experience, they don't have the most efficient system of delivery.

Government committed to transparency

Meanwhile the office of the Prime Minister Joe Natuman, said the government is committed to transparency and open information during the post-cyclone crisis.

The government has been criticised in some quarters for taking control of the distribution of aid.

However a release from the Prime Minister's office said assessments of outer islands have been conducted and the data is being collated by the National Disaster Management Office to inform distribution of aid.

It said government is directly working with the NDMO to co-ordinate response efforts, and that aid agencies were working through this system.

Communications continue to be a challenge for authorities as they try to establish the extent of the damage in outer islands.

New Zealand sends help

The New Zealand Navy is sending the HMNZS Canterbury to Vanuatu to support the recovery effort.

New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said the Canterbury will depart as soon as possible carrying personnel, heavy engineering equipment and other supplies.

The defence minister Gerry Brownlie said the Canterbury was tailor-made for this sort of operation and will make a valuable contribution in supporting Vanuatu's response.