• Feminist Humanitarian Net

Cyclone Harold strikes amidst COVID-19 crisis - the Shifting the Power Coalition is responding

Amidst the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, Cyclone Harold has stormed its way through island nations across the Pacific, striking first the Solomon Islands, then Vanuatu, then Fiji and Tonga, leaving widespread destruction behind it. 

Feminist Humanitarian Network member, the Shifting the Power Coalition (StPC), is an alliance of local and national women’s rights and disability organisations across the Pacific region working together to strengthen diverse women’s voices, agency and decision making in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

(PC: ActionAid Vanuatu Woman Wetem Weta network)

StPC members across the Pacific are responding to the impacts of Cyclone Harold, taking into account measures that must be taken to protect communities from COVID-19 at the same time as ensuring their rights are upheld in the wake of the cyclone.

The Coalition is disseminating information on the path of the cyclone, on the response by governments and other actors, and providing protection guidance to women and marginalised groups in affected communities via social media and text messages. In Vanuatu, StPC members are mobilising a women-led response in affected communities that will focus on the protection of women's rights and immediate support to the most vulnerable groups of women.

Collectively, the StPC is also pushing humanitarian actors to ensure that the response is inclusive and that the specific needs and rights of marginalised groups are factored in from the outset. 

“This situation is unprecedented and is an opportunity for the Pacific humanitarian response to be innovative and inclusive,” says Shifting the Power Coalition Technical Adviser, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, who is also the Pacific representative and Board Chair of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).

Cyclone Harold is a stark reminder that the impact of climate-change will continue to be felt in the Pacific Island region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic:

Damage in Fiji. (PC: FemLINK Pacific)

"We need a human security response.  The response to TC Harold will have to be managed in line the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus, and just as food security, WASH and shelter are a priority so is communication to ensure the affected communities are informed of how decisions are made," said Bhagwan Rolls.

Protection priorities also remain a major concern given the prevalence of violence in many countries have already led to increases in violence against women:

"But we also want to ensure that women-led responses and solutions are not sidelined at this time as women have the solutions to build community resilience and security." 

The Shifting the Power Coalition brings together 13 women-led civil society organisations from six countries in the region with a focus on supporting women's leadership in preparing for and responding to humanitarian crises. 

To keep up to date with the response to Cyclone Harold across the Pacific and the urgent action that StPC members are taking, follow the Shifting the Power Coalition, follow them on Facebook here

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