Vanuatu forum plans for an inclusive COVID-19 response

Forum participants group for a photo in Santo

While Vanuatu has recorded no cases of COVID-19 transmission in the community to date, people with disabilities are amongst some of the most at risk, with underlying health conditions and also barriers to accessing prevention measures such as handwashing and limited information on how to protect themselves from the virus.

To help address these issues, in 2020 Water for Women partner World Vision Vanuatu facilitated a two-day Inclusive COVID-19 Action Plan forum that brought together 76 people including 21 people who live with disabilities, organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs), and key civil society actors to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities were being adequately addressed and considered in national and provincial plans, and civil society programming.

For many of the participants who live with disabilities it was the first time they had been involved at such a high profile forum. Hosting the forum in Santo, rather than the capital of Port Vila, also enabled participants from outer islands to take part in the national level dialogue, which they are often unable to do.

As a male participant with a disability explained, “ My opinion nor presence has never been asked of in such high profile forums such as this. Usually they always happen in the capital city. Thank you so much for allowing us to come from our rural communities and allow us the opportunity to contribute on how people such as myself can be guided on maintaining safety measures against COVID-19."

The forum was designed to provide an opportunity for participants to not only contribute to mitigation strategies to keep themselves protected against the virus, but to also ask relevant questions to address measures should COVID-19 transmission occur in Vanuatu.

The forum also provided an opportunity to analyse and discuss current awareness raising activities that are being delivered at a national and community level and analyse with a wide range of stakeholders, including people with disabilities, the opportunities and limitations in current mediums being used to disseminate COVID-19 awareness, especially for people with different types of disabilities. Of particular note was the frequent use of radio, television and videos to disseminate key information, which were noted as being ineffective for people with hearing impairments, especially as most did not include captioning. This finding and discussion has also been important for the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine information.

Water for Women partners with World Vision Australia in the delivery of the Laetem Dak Kona: gender-equitable and disability-accessible WASH project in Sanma and Torba provinces, Vanuatu. 

Water for Women is the Australian government's flagship WASH program and is being delivered as part of Australia's aid program over five years, from 2018 to 2022. So far, 1.4 million people in Asian and Pacific communities have benefited from greater access to WASH services, including 26,575 people with disabilities*. We aim to directly support a further 44,319 people with disabilities by the end of 2022.

Through Water for Women, Australia is investing AUD118.9m to deliver 33 WASH projects and research initiatives that aim to support 2.9 million people in 15 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.


(photo: Adorina Massing / World Vision Vanuatu)

*As of December 2022.


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