The Ambae volcano, Manaro Voui had been dormant prior to 2017 before it went into volcanic activity in September 2017. The most recent awakening of Manaro Voui is the fourth different phase of volcanic activity between September 2017 and July 2018.
The first volcanic phase that occurred in September - November 2017 saw Manaro Voui on Level 4 (moderate eruption state) triggering the Council of Ministers (COM) decision for a compulsory mass evacuation of the whole island of Ambae with fear of potential direct threat to human lives should there be an eruption. Repatriation of the Ambae population was done in early November 2017. Between November 2017 - July 2018, Manaro Voui went into 3 successive volcanic phases where heavy ash fall caused substantial damage to properties, livestock and agricultural crops.
This year Manaro Voui was raised to Level 3 from mid-March to early June. It then returned to Level 2 between June and mid-July before being raised to Level 3 between late July and late August. As of late September 2018, Manaro Voui was again back on Level 2.
A first state of emergency was declared by the Government of Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers (COM) on April 2018 which lasted 3 months. Decision 74/2018 clearly stated that Maewo island will be ‘second home’ for the Ambae population. COM decision 117/2018 extended the state of emergency until 26 September 2018 and ordered a second compulsory evacuation of the whole population of Ambae. It took the Government through the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) approximately two weeks to mid-August 2018 to evacuate the remaining Ambae population.
On 9 August 2018, COM decision 133/2018 made a clear request for supplementary budget for the Ambae Volcano Response. This COM decision had five guiding decisions and perhaps the crucial one was that the Government had finally decided to respond not only to Ambae vulnerable group of people who evacuated to Santo but to respond to everybody else who relocated there. In order for the Government to be able to respond to Ambae evacuees who evacuated to Santo, the COM in its decision mandated the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) to make available an extra VT 200 million to support the evacuated Ambae population on Santo.
The latest COM decision (149/2018) was released on Wednesday 12 September giving clear directions of an extension of the current state of emergency for another two months until 26 November. The recent COM decision has only four guidance points with the main decisions being i) the adoption of Ambae evacuated families gradually into Maewo community and ii) the State Law Office to draft an Agreement with conditions, detailing the Strategy and conditions of Land Use in the Short term for the Government of Vanuatu and Maewo Chiefs to sign securing livelihoods for Ambae families to be resettled in Maewo through customary adoption and Integration.
While the NDMO coordinated the overall response, the implementing aspect of the response lies with government related sectors which include clusters and non-clusters. The COM decision allocated an initial VT 200 million (Decision 73/2018) towards the response effort along with initial donor commitments, however there remain substantial technical and financial gaps to be filled.
A final statistical figure for displaced Ambae population on Maewo is 2,932 persons or 879 households. It is important to note that despite the evacuation to Maewo, it has been reported that some evacuees are not settled on Maewo as movement between Maewo and Santo by evacuees has been reported. The implementing agencies in this as with any response is not limited to specific clusters, but also involves various sectors such as physical planning, the forestry department etc.
This document is designed to highlight the response recovery activity in the immediate, intermediate and long-term with respect to the current Ambae Manaro volcano operation.
In order for relocated communities to rebuild a sustainable future substantial support will be necessary.
The people of Ambae have left behind their homes, livelihoods and assets. Communities have been fractured and ties to the land suspended. For relocated communities to rebuild a sustainable future considerable ongoing support will be necessary. If Maewo is to become a legitimate 2nd home for Ambae people for the longer term, then a safe and sustainable life must be attainable. Genuine support to rebuilding livelihoods and community are required. Not only a safe home but one which includes a sense of community and provides a nurturing environment for their children and elderly. Maewo offers a genuine opportunity to create a model for displacement in Vanuatu. However, for the Maewo relocation to be successful exercise communities must eventually be able to support themselves and not rely on Government support. Evidence from displaced communities in other locations suggests this is only possible with significant early support to rebuilding the community. This requires all sectors, not only WASH, Shelter and Food Security but Gender and Protection, the Environment and others to work together in creating a cohesive sustainable community.
The Response and Recovery Gaps and Priorities focuses exclusively on Maewo. Despite the COM decision 133/2018, the Government has given clear deliberation that Maewo Island is the chosen island for second home to the Ambae evacuees. However given the humanitarian need on Santo and other islands it is envisaged that this may serve as a model for future plans. The total cost of this response plan incorporating all clusters for the immediate, intermediate and long-term is VATU 4,513,071,577