The Vanuatu government has officially launched the start of the US$50 million Vanuatu Reconstruction and Improvement Project, at a ceremony last Friday in the presence of members of parliament and senior government officials.
The project will fund both reconstruction and repairs, as well as climate-resilient upgrades to strengthen key infrastructure – including schools, roads and public buildings – against natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.
“We are well aware of the impacts of natural disasters on the communities and environment”, said Hon. Jotham Napat, Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities. “It is essential that the Government has the ability and motivation to respond to those natural disasters, based upon solid policies, legislation, practices and procedures to firstly restore the normal way of life for our people and secondly build greater resilience of roads and buildings to withstand future disasters.”
The project will help to streamline emergency procedures to ensure better preparedness and recovery, including improved processes to help government departments resume services as soon as possible following natural disasters. Project funds may also be used in exceptional circumstances for emergencies.
In March 2015, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam struck 22 islands of Vanuatu, killing 11 people, leaving thousands homeless and causing devastating damage to agriculture and public infrastructure. Total economic damage and losses as a result of the Cyclone were estimated at US$450 million – approximately 64 percent of Vanuatu’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The World Bank is pleased to be partnering with government of Vanuatu to ensure the protection of lives against disasters by boosting the resilience of economic and social infrastructure,” said Guido Rurangwa, World Bank Country Representative for Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. “This project is one of several established since Tropical Cyclone Pam, which is helping build a more resilient Vanuatu – providing 14,000 with improved all-weather road access and 5,000 students with safer schools.”
Vanuatu has been ranked as the world’s most disaster-prone country by the United Nations University World Risk Index 2016. Based on model estimates by the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI), in the next 50 years Vanuatu has a 50 percent chance of experiencing another loss greater than US$330 million and, on average, Vanuatu is expected to incur US$48 million per year in losses due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones.
Funded through the International Development Association Crisis Response Window, the project is made up of a US$25 million credit and US$25 million grant, and is consistent with the Government of Vanuatu’s TC Pam National Recovery and Economic Strengthening Program Plan (2015), and the Vanuatu Infrastructure Strategic Investment Plan (2015-2024).