Nearly one week after Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu, the full extent of devastating effects is still not clear. The category five storm hit Vanuatu with full strength, packing wind gusts up to 320km/h (200mph). Aid agencies estimate that about one half of Vanuatu’s population could be homeless and the UN states that 3’300 residents are currently staying at evacuation centres because their homes were destroyed by the cyclone.
Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, labelled the storm as a “monster”. He stated that “this cyclone is a huge setback for the country’s development. It will have severe impacts for all sectors of economic activity including tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.”
At the same time as the cyclone hit his country, the president was attending the third World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan. The objective of this conference is to complete assessment and review of the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, which was agreed upon in 2005 and endures until 2015. Furthermore, a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction shall be adopted and modalities of cooperation and evaluation of its implementation determined.
Trough environmental change, the odds of extreme weather events and the associated rapid-onset natural disasters such as cyclone “Pam” will increase in the future. Besides, Vanuatu is also struggling with long-term effects of environmental change through slow-onset disasters such as droughts or the sea-level rise. In Vanuatu and various other regions of the earth, those slow-onset disasters will lead to a long-term loss in land and food security, and thus to a driving factor in internal and even trans-boundary migration.
Under these circumstances, the need for action and an agreement of an effective and comprehensive post-2015 framework for disaster risk at the third WCDRR in Japan is clearly visible.