23 Aug 2019

Disaster aid needs to target vulnerable - UN Women

1:38 pm on 23 August 2019

A aid worker who was deployed to Vanuatu after the Ambae volcanic eruption says the diverse needs of those affected need to be factored into disaster response plans.

People being evacuated from Ambae.

People being evacuated from Ambae. Photo: Nixon Garae Tambeana

Gender and protection advisor for UN Women in Vanuatu, Nim Khuman, said a disaster response should assess the needs of different groups.

Women and girls are particularly at risk in these situations but disability, age, sexual orientation, income levels and location can also affect how people cope with disasters, she said.

"People think it's simply an act of delivering the service, but for example if food or water is distributed too far away, people with disabilities or the elderly or children, who are often tasked with collecting these items - if it's too far away it's not safe, it's not accessible.

"So, we need to really think in any type of intervention that we do, are different groups in the community able to access these services and are we increasing the harm if we haven't planned and designed correctly?"

It is also vital that women are consulted at all stages of a disaster response, Ms Khuman said.

"It's essential they they're included in every operation. So, in Vanuatu, and all countries around the world, women really understand the needs and the issues that face their communities and they're pivotal to all the stages of the humanitarian response. So, the preparedness, response and resilience phases."

Ms Khuman said the Ambae eruption and other disasters in Vanuatu had presented opportunities to increase the leadership and participation of women in humanitarian roles.

She said recent funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would support ongoing work in Vanuatu to make sure humanitarian responses focussed on the needs of women and other at-risk groups.

"We will also be looking at training partners, government and community leaders, in gender and humanitarian action.

"And also, looking at the local level and working with communities - so setting up gender and protection committees in each of the six provinces in Vanuatu."

Ms Khuman was deployed to Vanuatu through the Australia Assists Program which is managed by RedR Australia.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs