The Church Agencies Network Disaster Operation (CAN DO) have welcomed the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) announcement of an additional $750,000 in funding for over 10,000 people displaced by volcanic activity on Vanuatu’s Ambae Island.

The entire population of Ambae Island was evacuated last month when the Manaro volcano threatened to erupt, with residents taken to shelters on neighbouring islands.

The Vanuatu Government has now facilitated the return of those evacuated back to their villages, as the volcano appears to have stabilised.
The latest funding, via the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP), brings Australia’s total humanitarian assistance package to Vanuatu to nearly AUD3 million.

The CAN DO consortium will utilise $350,000 DFAT funding to invest in community leadership, building resilience and cohesion. CAN DO will also provide practical support to families especially in the protection of women, children and the most vulnerable affected by the crisis. It will do this through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), in partnership with Anglican Overseas Aid (AOA), both of whom are CAN DO members. World Vision will also provide technical support on the project.

“The DFAT funds will make a life-changing difference to people in Ambae,” Anna Downing, Capacity Development Manager, ADRA Vanuatu said.

“ADRA is proud to lead the CAN DO response and work with the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) in delivering this response in Vanuatu.”

According to CAN DO Chair, Anthony Sell, the funding will support CAN DO partners to meet the immediate humanitarian protection and safety needs of 700 women, boys and girls impacted by the disaster. The funds will also help to build and strengthen the community cohesion of more than 5,500 people affected, so that they are more resilient and better able to respond to future emergencies.

In the coming months, CAN DO will support the long-term recovery process of people who were evacuated and who have now returned to Ambae Island. This will not be an easy process for many people, as the volcanic activity destroyed many crops and livestock.

Mr Sell welcomed the DFAT funding, saying that the extensive reach of the church network would enable CAN DO to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the affected population.

“The CAN DO alliance will draw on its network of staff, with expertise in disaster response, to support the community’s recovery, peace-building and safety during this time of significant social upheaval,” Mr Sell said.

CAN DO comprises Act for Peace, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Australia, Anglican Board of Mission, Anglican Overseas Aid, the Australian Lutheran World Service, Transform Aid International (Baptist World Aid Australia), UnitingWorld, and Caritas Australia.

CAN DO is a member of the Australian Humanitarian Partnership between the Australian Government and some of Australia’s leading international development NGOs. The AHP has a strategic focus on Pacific preparedness and resilience work, in particular building the capacity of local organisations across the region to manage disasters more effectively.