Vanuatu is made up of a chain of 13 principal and many smaller islands extending 850 km from north to south. It consists of rugged mountains, high plateaus, coastal terraces and offshore coral reefs with 35 per cent of its land above 300 m. Most of the population lives along the coast of the eight largest islands.
Common natural hazards include cyclones, volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts and sea level rises. Vanuatu sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and at the meeting of two tectonic plates, exposing it to frequent earthquakes.
In support of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team (VHT) was established in late 2011 as a collaboration between Vanuatu based NGOs, the Red Cross, UN and government agencies. Coordinated by Oxfam with OCHA ROP support, it is focuses on improving the coordination of humanitarian preparedness and response in support of government agencies. Line ministries in the Government act in cluster lead roles and VHT members act as co-leads. The VHT is recognized as a key coordination mechanism in Vanuatu and is included in Government plans.
The VHT faced its first challenge in February 2013 when Tropical Cyclone Jasmine struck off the coast of Vanuatu’s Tafea Province causing damage to local agriculture and water supply. VHT members were mobilized in a joint rapid assessment team to assess the cyclone impact and make recommendations to government.