The Disaster Law Project

Disasters ● Displacement ● Human Rights



If You’re in Vanuatu and Survived Cyclone Pam, Read This Now:

Read This NowYou have a right to life with dignity.

You have a right to adequate shelter, to food, to safe drinking water, and to sanitary hygiene facilities.  You have a right to health care, to remain with your family, to privacy.  You have a right to access humanitarian aid.

You have a right to be safe.

Your government owes you these and other rights.  They also owe you a remedy for the harm that’s caused when these rights are violated.

You also have a right to control your destiny.  A disaster response system has been put in place that may or may not have been designed with your input.  But the right to “consultation,” as lawyers call it, means that decisions about camps and shelters (and every other aspect of the response and resettlement) – whether made by the government of Vanuatu, the UN, an NGO, or other international actors – must reflect YOUR priorities, not theirs.  If you don’t have a seat at the table, if your voice is not being heard, then you are not being consulted.  And that is a human rights violation.

Have you heard that the recovery is slow because of logistics, or money, or the scale of devastation?  That certainly may be true.  Or it may not.  Continue reading “If You’re in Vanuatu and Survived Cyclone Pam, Read This Now:”

Sheltering Vulnerable Populations in Vanuatu – Lessons Unlearned

Cyclone Pam - Lessons UnlearnedA team of experts from ActionAid Australia recently visited evacuation shelters in Port Vila, Vanuatu to report on conditions facing women who have been displaced by Cyclone Pam.  Here’s what they describe:

Pregnant women are sleeping on thin mats on the ground.  Men and women share sleeping spaces.  The evacuation centers are barely lit at night, if lit at all.  At night time, women have to find their way in the dark to the toilets that are shared with the men.  There is nowhere to wash, except in the rivers.  Adequate sanitary items haven’t been distributed, and women are using toilet paper – if they have access to it.

There is a growing awareness that mega-disasters disproportionately affect women and other vulnerable populations, and that these groups have different needs than men following displacement.  And yet, vulnerable groups are routinely denied the measure of protection they deserve – protection they are entitled to under law – disaster after disaster after disaster.

Consider the 2011 Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster that displaced more than 300,000 people.  Officials at multiple government-run shelters denied requests from evacuees to put up dividers, which meant that women were housed alongside men they didn’t know, and publicly exposed when changing clothes or nursing an infant.  Continue reading “Sheltering Vulnerable Populations in Vanuatu – Lessons Unlearned”

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