UNICEF concerned for children of the Pacific
in the coming
UNICEF concerned for children of the Pacific in the coming cyclone season
Four cyclones in three years in Vanuatu, with more to come
SUVA, 1 November 2023 – UNICEF is increasingly concerned for children’s wellbeing in the upcoming cyclone season. Following the recent out of season Tropical Cyclone Lola, many children have already experienced three Category 4 cyclones in 2023, and four severe cyclones (including a Category 5) in three years. Current predictions suggest from 8 to 14 cyclones could be on their way across the Pacific countries, 4 to 6 of which are expected to reach Vanuatu.
In the immediate aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Lola, it is essential that we respond quickly to reach the most vulnerable to avoid the deterioration of their living conditions, with the supplies, resources and services that are urgently needed. UNICEF maintains a local warehouse stocked with emergency supplies that will now be distributed throughout the affected areas, with more on the way into the country. However, given the predictions for the season and increasing frequency of severe storms, it is equally essential to ensure a resilient and sustainable response in the longer term.
"There are five-year-olds in Vanuatu today who have feared for their lives four times in their short lifetimes, says UNICEF Pacific Representative Jonathan Veitch.
“We must prioritize long-term climate resilience and implement strategies that protect our environment, infrastructure, and most importantly, the well-being of our communities. It is not enough to provide life-saving support - health, education and water systems must be improved and strengthened, to better withstand the next major shock.”
While UNICEF Pacific and our partners are actively collaborating with governments to provide support, the situation in Vanuatu is particularly challenging due to the very remote location of many affected communities. Much more substantial and rapid commitments are needed to enhance community resilience in the longer term.
Children and young people are disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters. Repeated exposure to events such as these has profound effects on their wellbeing, psychological and physical health and puts them at heightened risk of contracting water-borne diseases through contaminated water supplies. In the longer term, this compromises their nutritional status, reduces their learning outcomes at school and prevents them from reaching their full potential. When essential services do not fully recover, vulnerability only increases the next time a cyclone hits.
Investment in resilient infrastructure and promoting sustainable practices can minimize the devastating effects of cyclones. The provision of services in these crisis-affected areas must consider not only the quality of infrastructure but also the capacity and preparedness of the service providers, including teachers, nurses and medical staff.
UNICEF Pacific therefore calls on partners to urgently work together to develop proactive measures designed to mitigate the impacts of future cyclones. We must provide the support needed to ensure that communities can withstand and recover from future natural hazards and the effects of the climate crisis.