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ActionAid Australia

Dual Crises: Responding to COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu

Dual Crises: Responding to COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu

ActionAid has been working in Vanuatu since Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam devastated the island in 2015. Our initial work, setting up safe spaces for women in the...



26/03/2020 > 26/03/2020


  • Safeguarding the Environment - Disaster prevention and response
  • Tackling Inequality - Community and economic development


  • Women and girls
  • People experiencing socio-economic disadvantage or vulnerability


ActionAid has been working in Vanuatu since Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam devastated the island in 2015. Our initial work, setting up safe spaces for women in the cyclone’s aftermath, has evolved into supporting an extensive network of 4,200 women across the country who are leading change in their communities. These women are stepping up to ensure their communities stay safe from the dual crises of COVID-19 and TC Harold, which made landfall on the island of Espiritu Santo in Northern Vanuatu on April 6th, 2020.

The president of Vanuatu declared a State of Emergency on March 26th in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, placing restrictions on travel (including inter-island) and ensuring social distancing practices were being followed. These measures, while necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, have negatively impacted young women who rely on markets and food stalls as their primary income source.

Additionally, following TC Harold, the number of displaced people or those without adequate shelter, along with increasing economic tensions as a result of both COVID-19 restrictions and the cyclone, is expected to increase instances of violence against women (VAW). There is also an increased risk of the spread of COVID-19 following the cyclone, particularly if existing cases have gone undetected or there is an influx of aid workers should border restrictions be lifted.

ActionAid will work with local partners to support the ongoing work of Women’s Weather Watch (WWW), a disaster communication mechanism, and establish women friendly spaces which will provide dignity kits and psychosocial support.


Using Women’s Weather Watch (WWW), an early warning network developed for disaster preparation, ActionAid Vanuatu shared via SMS the very first public health message about COVID-19 in Vanuatu. The team worked closely with the Vanuatu Ministry of Health to develop the message in the local language, Bislama, and explained in simple non-technical language how to prevent the spread of the virus. This message was sent to more than 77,148 people on five islands – directly reaching more than a quarter of the Vanuatu population. This platform will also be used throughout the COVID-19 and TC Harold response as a primary method for facilitating access to information; we expect to reach 30,000 people through this communication method.

Funding will support women’s local leadership in responding to the immediate needs of 30,000 people (including access to information regarding COVID-19, support and goods and services) and protection of up to 3,000 women affected by TC Harold through the establishment of women-friendly spaces and provision of dignity kits and psychosocial support. Women’s collectives will be supported to ensure communities can stay safe and to understand who is in need of further support, such as cash.

WWW will deliver access to information on relief distributions and other support services available to approximately 30,000 people in affected areas. COVID-19 prevention and hygiene will be integrated into the overall response, and in particular, specific social distancing measures will be put in place for relevant activities, with hand-washing facilities provided in the safe spaces.

Profile of ActionAid Australia

ActionAid Australia

ActionAid Australia is a women’s rights organisation working to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication by working with people living in poverty and exclusion. We are a member of a global federation working in 45 countries to empower women to claim their human rights and campaign against injustice.

ActionAid recognises that the growing frequency and scale of humanitarian crises and climate change are deepening poverty, gender inequality and rights violations. Our programs, which reach over 25 million people globally, support people living in poverty and exclusion to claim their rights, build resilience and promote more equitable redistribution of resources. ActionAid Australia’s specifically focuses on supporting women to work for economic and climate justice and claim their rights in emergencies. Over the past 10 years, the cumulative impact of our direct support to campaigns and programs has reached one million people. We work with partners and allies at the local, national and international levels to campaign for changes in policies and practices that prevent people living in poverty from claiming their rights.


TOTAL BUDGET: $149,930
Funding sourceAmount
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade$89,930
Funding gap$60,000
Expense itemAmount
Safe Spaces for Women$27,000
Hygiene Kits$30,000
WWW Communication Costs + Solar Charger + Satellite Phone$15,000
Protection Assessment (Training and communication materials)$24,300
Protection Response (supporting women's collectives)$10,000
Financial Assistance (needs assessment, market assessment, livelihood grant)$9,000
Documentation and Learnings$2,000
Monitoring and Evaluation in Vanuatu$3,000
Administration and overheads$13,630
In Country Staff (AA Vanuatu and Local Partner)$16,000

Support Dual Crises: Responding to COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu

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