Building resilience in vulnerable communities in Tuvalu

Published: 3 May 2017 11:23 CET

By Eleala Avanitele, Tuvalu Red Cross

Some of the most vulnerable households in Tuvalu are now better prepared for cyclones, droughts and other disasters thanks to a resilience pilot project run by Tuvalu Red Cross and its partners.


The Finnish-Pacific (FINPAC) project was funded by the Government of Finland and coordinated through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


Starting in March 2014, the project helped the Teone Community in Tuvalu to better understand local weather and climate information, and to build resilience towards changing weather patterns. The community has 68 households totalling more than 300 people who have come to the capital Funafuti from the outer islands seeking better jobs and more opportunities.


Taulia Lauave, a mother of five children and a member of the Teone Community Committee says the FINPAC project has given her family valuable knowledge, including what to do during adverse weather conditions such as a drought or a cyclone.


“If a cyclone was coming I would make sure my kids were in a safe place, check for loose items outside the house, secure any loose roofing iron then see if we have enough food and water in storage,” she says.


Mrs Lauave, 33, says posters in Tuvaluan on cyclones, drought and La Nina, which were distributed to all households, had benefited her whole family.


“One of my kids, when she saw the poster said, ‘Oh mum, now I know how important water is, and I now know how to use it and not waste it.’ When it is stormy and windy they say, ‘Oh mum, shouldn’t we get some food from the store and clean up outside’?”


The project has educated her and her children and made them feel safer and more prepared.


Through the FINPAC project Tuvalu Red Cross has provided the community with portable radios to listen to weather warnings, roofing iron to better secure their houses, educational posters and a community notice board containing tide tables and weather information. The Red Cross also mobilised 200 people to clear unwanted items such as old cars and appliances from the site.


Because of the roofing iron, Mrs Lauave’s roof no longer leaks and the clean-up campaign means her kids are safe when they play outside.


Tuvalu Red Cross Society’s climate change and disaster management officer Tusi Finikaso says that the FINPAC project helped the people of Teone community increase their knowledge of hazards and climate risks in their community and what they can do to minimise their vulnerability.


“The project has also strengthened the working relationship that Tuvalu Red Cross has with the Tuvalu Disaster Relief Unit and Tuvalu Met Services,” Mr Finikaso says.


“I am very happy. It gives a sense of accomplishment and you can see the benefit and positive results of what you are doing.” He adds that Tuvalu Red Cross plans to expand the project to the outer islands later this year.  


The FINPAC project has also been carried out in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.