The Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Cherol Ala


Women are playing a very important and significant role in disaster management, especially during the response and recovery activities for the Tropical Cyclones (TC) Judy and Kevin.

The Director General (DG) at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Ms Cherol Ala, described the ongoing disaster operations as a (team sport) “because when the government moves it connects all Government agencies, development partners, and non-government organisations”.

She stated that for the first time, Vanuatu adopted a different approach during the response and recovery process after a natural disaster.

“We have changed the old way of work (for the transition from response to recovery) from six months to three months,” she said.

DG Ala relayed that this innovative approach is led by her office under the leadership of the Prime Minister and Government of the day.

She expressed that she is very proud of the women who take-up the DG leadership role which allow the male Director Generals to consider and ultimately, follow their counterpart female DGs’ advice.

“Where and when there is compact women leadership, results are forthcoming.” she stated.

The DG of the Ministry of Climate Change Adaptation, Mrs. Esline Garaebiti Bule,is also the Chairlady of the National Disaster Committee (NDC). This Committee is responsible for guiding the implementation of disaster risk management policies that are implemented by National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and its Clusters (which are made up of members of the Government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the country’s Development Partners.

DG Bule confirms that operations for these disaster events have changed, with respect to the timeline of response efforts. These changes are necessary to minimize the transition phase between the response and recovery activities, so that the return of communities to normalcy is accelerated.

“This time there is a balance in decision making because there are men are leading the government and the women are administering the affairs of the nation,” she said.

DG Bule believes that, “once you dedicate yourself to serving the Government and the people of Vanuatu with all your heart, it opens more doors to recognition and support at the regional and international level”.

She stated that it’s not easy to manage a response to an emerging natural disasters while dealing with ongoing business as usual but she emphasized that “no matter so many circumstances, women are silent achievers.”

Acting DG of Health Judith Melsul, who was appointed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) just after the twin cyclones expressed that she is already comfortable with health cluster operations who follows the rules and procedures of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

The Ministry has set up the National Health Emergency Operation Centre (NHEOC), which oversees the compilation of the daily health cluster situation reports, before forwarding them to the NDMO, to be included in the overall Situation Report (“SitRep”).

She explained that the NHEOC operates with its own budget of VT28 million, and functions separately from NDMO, only reaching out to the NDMO when they must provide their report.

“The Ministry of Health’s executive team are all female and their working relationships are very strong in this time of response and recovery,” Mrs. Melsul said.

She also mentioned that it is the first time the MoH has responded after the two cyclones in good time and people have praised the MoH.

Mrs. Melsul also acknowledged development partners including Fiji and New Caledonia for sending their medical officers over for the operations.

The Ministry of Justice and Community Services’ (MOJCS) acting DG, Rothina Ilo Noka, expressed that she was impressed the way Gender & Cluster Operation Centre had operated during the cyclone recovery process.

She thanked those who contributed a lot in supplying and delivering almost thousand dignity kits, hygiene kits, provide psycho social support, child friendly spaces, mobility devices and non-food items.

All of which comes under three sub clusters — Disability Cluster, Child Protection Cluster and Gender Base Violence Cluster.

Mrs. Noka stated that they were very cautious in their distributions to make sure everyone affected get the much-needed help from the Gender & Protection Cluster.

“I am proud to announce that the Gender Protection Cluster has produced a Gender and Protection Analysis report that help leaders to analyse and understand the different impacts that Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin have had on diverse women, men, girls and boys and other at-risk or marginalised groups in Vanuatu, including people with disabilities,” Acting DG Noka said. “Likewise, it informs humanitarian programming (response and recovery) based on different needs and risks facing diverse women, men, girls and boys, including people with disabilities, with a particular focus on Protection, Shelter, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Food Security and Livelihoods. This is the kind of information that the Planning and Finance Sector Analysts, DGs and Directors can utilize to strengthen their response and recovery program. The information is readily available for their mainstreaming and integration into their sectoral PDNAs.”

Mrs. Noka also stated that for the first time the MOJCS will be developing its Sectoral Emergency Contingency Plan to strengthen the coordination of response amongst the Justice and Community Services agencies under the MOJCS.