In this image from December 2018. Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers load relief items for a disaster response operation.

Suva/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 13 February 2019 – With the South Pacific cyclone season under way and Cyclone Oma headed for Vanuatu, Red Cross societies are prepared and ready to respond.

The cyclone season runs in the South Pacific from November to April, with tropical cyclones bringing the risk of huge damage and destruction to communities, livelihoods and infrastructure.

Kathryn Clarkson, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Pacific, says that while cyclone season can be unpredictable, the Red Cross is prepared.

Good emergency response starts with good preparedness. Pacific Red Cross societies prepare for cyclone season throughout the year and work with local authorities to ensure communities know how to get prepared and what to do when disasters occur,” Ms Clarkson said.

Local preparedness and response are crucial in the Pacific where people live in remote island communities scattered across vast distances. Essential services like healthcare can be hard to access, which makes it essential that local people are trained in first aid, have emergency plans in place and are able to be first responders in their community.”

Red Cross Societies in 12 Pacific countries have an extensive network of more than 5,000 volunteers trained in first aid, emergency preparedness and response, both across urban and remote outer island communities.

Communities are supported to understand weather warnings, develop emergency plans and kits, and to identify a safe place to evacuate. These simple steps can save lives.

Emergency relief items including tools to help repair damaged houses or build temporary shelters, essential cooking items, water containers, sleeping mats, blankets water purification tablets are prepositioned across the islands, ready for immediate distribution.

Pacific Red Cross staff and volunteers are experienced disaster responders. Their preparedness and response activities helped communities to withstand Cyclone Gita, a category five cyclone, as it moved through Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in February last year.

This year, Pacific Red Cross teams have already responded to storms in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

IFRC and Red Cross societies also work closely with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to ensure seasonal weather outlooks are used to guide Red Cross societies with their early preparedness activities.

Meteorologists have forecast a higher cyclone risk for Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji this cyclone season.  While a relatively normal season is predicted, meteorologists cannot rule out a category 5 storm and expect three to four cyclones to be severe.

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Media contacts

In Suva: Hanna Butler:
+679 998 0166,
hanna.butler@ifrc.org @hannarosebutler

In Kuala Lumpur: Rosemarie North,
+60 122 308 451,
rosemarie.north@ifrc.org @RosemarieNorth

In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane,
+41 79 251 8039,
matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org @mahatmat

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