Cyclone PAM causes devastating impact on employment and livelihoods

ILO Disaster Preparedness and Response

News | 23 April 2015
Port Vila – The extremely destructive category 5 cyclone Pam that struck Vanuatu on March 13, 2015 severely affected the provinces of SHEFA, TAFEA, MALAMPA and PENAMA. Not only did it cause enormous loses and damages to physical assets, but also loss of income and livelihoods.

The total economic value of the effects caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam is estimated to be approximately VT 48.5 billion (US$449.4 million) which is equivalent to 64.1% of the GDP of Vanuatu.

A few weeks after the cyclone, a three member ILO team, back stopped by specialists from ILO Pacific, ROAP and HQ Offices, was deployed to Vanuatu and worked with the Commissioner and staff of the Department of Labour (DoL) to undertake an assessment and finalise the draft report on Employment, Livelihoods & Social Protection (ELSP) as part of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). They also consulted ILO social partners to developed recommendations for Emergency Employment Services (EES) based on ELSP assessment findings and needs of ILO constituents to support the recovery stage.

“This was the first time the DoL has been involved in such a comprehensive assessment and I was very pleased in the way local staff participated, got mentored and trained by ILO officials”, said Mr Lionel Kaluat, the Commissioner of Labour and Chair of the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council (TLAC). I also had the privilege of presenting the final draft of the assessment to a national forum, added Mr Kaluat.

Based upon the ELSP assessment it is estimated that Cyclone Pam has affected directly and indirectly the livelihoods of about 40,800 households or 195,000 people that live across the four disaster-affected provinces. A total of 504,050 work days and of VT 1.6 billion of personal income have been lost.

For the formal economy, 24,191 work days have been lost mostly in the provinces of SHEFA and TAFEA. This comprises of 17,751 in the manufacturing industry and 6,440 in tourism.

On commercial farms, agricultural workers are facing reduced demand for their labour, resulting in additional 24,785 lost work days. This equates to a total of VT 46 million in lost wages.

The ILO social partners, the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) and Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions (VCTU) also participated actively in the assessment and contributed to national discussions. The ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries, Mr David Lamotte also undertook a mission to Vanuatu to meet with ILO tripartite partners to discuss and identify technical assistance required by the them to strengthen their institutions and support the countries recover programme.

“Typically after a disaster, we read about losses to crops and livestock, or damages to roads and bridges. Of course, these are very important, but understanding how the disaster affects working women and men who must rebuild their livelihoods and enterprises is essential, if we are to implement high impact recovery programmes,” said David Lamotte. This makes it one the first assessments in the pacific on lisesin employment and income post-disaster.

An ILO official was also deployed to Vanuatu shortly after Cyclone Pam to assist the Government, workers and employers representative organizations, and other development partners, to set-up employment programmes that not only focus on the immediate crisis response but also contribute to long-term creation of decent work for all. The ILO established a 2 months presence in the Department of Labour (DoL) to provide effective and efficient technical assistance to ILO tripartite partners and contribute efforts towards efforts of the UN and International agencies.

The ILO also managed to mobilize initial funding from the Japanese funded Social Safety Net Project (SSNP) to support the delivery of labour based technology (LBT) methods to capacitate Island Based Contractors and Public Works staff to increase local decent employment through road construction and maintenance. ILO internal funds were allocated to support the establishment of Employment Services Vanuatu (ESV) to support formal sector workers who had lost jobs to return to the workforce.

Capacity building programmes for government, employers and workers have also been designed and implemented to ensure they are able to respond to the current situation and prepare themselves to responded to future disasters.

The ILO team has also contributed to the UN Joint Programme with UNDP, UN Women and UN Habitat to jointly deliver Emergency Employment Services programmes to support the recovery stage and also contribute to medium to long term outcomes.

ILO will continue to support ILO tripartite partners in Vanuatu and the governments recovery plans as part of ILO’s disaster mitigation and recovery global initiatives.