Our partner in Vanuatu is the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOMV).

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has a population of about 280,000 people spread across about 65 of the nation’s 80 islands. Vanuatu is ranked 134 out of 188 nations on the Human Development Index. Vanuatu is also the world’s most at-risk country in terms of vulnerability to natural disasters and ability to recover.

More than 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas scattered across multiple, remote islands. Additionally, there are more than 100 indigenous languages across the country. These factors make communications, transport and service delivery extremely challenging.

Opportunities for unskilled labourers to find ongoing and meaningful work, particularly in the outlying islands, are extremely limited, especially for women. While women contribute to growing and selling food, more needs to be done to help them take control of their own income generation and how they use it.

Most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water, and climate change is impacting vulnerable communities through cyclones, torrential downpours and tidal changes resulting in flooding.

Many people are not connected to the electricity grid, and in many places people rely on kerosene lamps for light. These are dangerous and polluting, and place great strain on a family’s limited finances. Every year these lamps burn 2.5 million people and cause hundreds of thousands of related deaths. Inhaling their fumes is also akin to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Violence against women and children is a serious issue – in the Pacific, 60 percent of women and girls have experienced violence at the hand of an intimate partner or family member. The problem is exacerbated by high unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of institutional support.

The Anglican Church of Melanesia is leading the Livelihoods and Women’s Empowerment project, which develops income-generating activities such as solar light businesses and poultry projects. This supports long-term sustainability, provides income opportunities and improves quality of life.

The livelihoods activities of the project build self-reliance in remote communities in the country and focus on empowering women.

The project also supports the establishment of micro-businesses through financial literacy training, development of specific skills, and seed funding.

Ongoing training in solar maintenance has allowed people to expand or establish businesses fixing a range of solar equipment. Further income generation activities such as poultry projects have been established, using the sales of solar lights, and the lights are used to support other work that was previously difficult at night, such as preparing produce for sale in markets.

Support of Disaster Risk Management Coordinator

In collaboration with a number of other Anglican agencies, we are supporting the Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for ACOMV.

The ACOMV Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Coordinator is responsible for the overall management of ACOMV’s disaster risks management initiatives in Vanuatu. These include Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), emergency response, and recovery.

The DRM Coordinator is responsible for preparing for, responding to, and coordinating recovery from all hazards which may affect the country. Two of the potentially most damaging of these are tropical cyclones and El Nino-related drought.

Effective DRR is more than just preparing for potential disasters; it comprises a range of initiatives closely aligned to the 2015-30 Sustainable Development Goals, issues such as good governance, economic and social development with a strong emphasis on poverty reduction; food and water security; environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation.

Ambae volcano response

We are also working with ACOM to respond to a humanitarian emergency caused by volcanic activity which forced the evacuation of the entire population of 10,000 people of Ambae Island and has supported the repatriation and resilience building of the communities from late 2017 into 2018. Volcanic activity has continued into 2018 and ACOM is partnering with other local churches and the government to support relocation of communities as well as long-term reliance on building and community planning to adapt to the new environment on Ambae and nearby islands.

Through the Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations partnership, Anglican Overseas Aid and ACOM are working with the Adventist Development Relief Agency as well as with other local churches to utilise grassroots church structures to improve information sharing with the government on how to live with an active volcano and on the protection of women and children in crisis.

Funding: The Livelihoods and Women’s Empowerment project is funded by grants from the Australian Government’s aid program as well as donations from the Australian public, and the Disaster Risk Management Coordinator and the Ambae volcano response are funded solely by donations from the Australian public.

If you would like to donate to our work in Vanuatu, click on the ‘Please Donate’ button (choose ‘Vanuatu – Solar Lights and Women’s Empowerment’ from the ‘Donation’ drop-down menu):