Today is World Humanitarian Day – a day that is held annually to acknowledge those who have contributed to humanitarian response and the communities that have been affected by conflict and disaster.

Vanuatu is among the world’s most at risk countries to natural disaster and our people have shown great unity in helping their communities to respond. The annual Vanuatu Humanitarian Award which is being launched in 2019 by the Ministry of Justice and Community Services and Gender and Protection Cluster in partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is in commemoration of all of those who have contributed to humanitarian efforts in our nation.

“We have demonstrated how resilient we are as a nation through our recovery from Cyclone Pam. In the past year alone; the community, government, non-government organisations and development partners have come together to respond to the evacuation of over 8,000 people from Ambae, tsunami in Aneityium, volcano and earthquake in Ambrym and Tropical Cyclone Oma which affected many provinces. We are currently collaborating to eradicate the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle outbreak in North Efate. People have risked their lives and volunteered their time to assist in multiple disasters. Church, chief, women and youth leaders; the affected and host communities have been instrumental and have all rallied together as humanitarians” said Director General of the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, Dorosday Kenneth Watson.

Director General Kenneth Watson acknowledged the theme of Women Humanitarians in this year’s World Humanitarian Day and asked for us to to join together in celebrating the work of all the women and girls who have contributed to preparing communities, responding and helping people to recover from disasters in Vanuatu.

She added that women and girls are often the first to respond and the last to leave disaster zones. “They look after the most at risk including children, the elderly and people with disabilities. They are an integral part of Community Disaster and Climate Change Committees, Committees Against Violence Against Women and different youth, church and women’s groups. They mobilise and train communities to respond, lead humanitarian operations, conduct assessments and deliver relief supplies. Women and girls are key to knowing the needs of their communities and are key to resilience in our country”, she said.

The Department of Women’s Affairs leads the Gender and Protection Cluster, which has over twenty partners that work together to ensure that people’s rights are protected and respected, and they can access services across all sectors safely and with dignity during times of disaster. It works in areas of women’s leadership, community participation, gender based violence, child protection and disability inclusion. It also collaborates with other sectors to ensure that the voices and needs of men, women, girls and boys have been considered in the delivery of food, water, shelter, education, healthcare, logistics and information.

During the Ambae emergency, 11 of the 16 staff leading response in the Gender and Protection Cluster and Ministry of Justice and Community Services were women. The National Disaster Management Office, Vanuatu Mobile Force, other government agencies and non-government organisations all have women humanitarians in their teams.

“The Ministry of Justice and Community Services thanks all of the women and girl humanitarians in Vanuatu for their work and commitment. Women and girls have demonstrated time and time again that they deliver successful results that meet the needs of the community and World Humanitarian Day has provided an opportunity for us to reflect on this”, concluded the Director General.