Disasters and climate change in the Pacific: adaptive capacity of humanitarian response organizations

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Climate and Development, 2015, 7 (1), pp. 35 - 46
Issue Date:
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© 2014, © 2014 Taylor & Francis. Climate change is likely to affect the pattern of disasters in the Pacific and, by extension, the organizations and systems involved in disaster response. This research focused on how immediate humanitarian health-related needs following disasters are met using the concept of adaptive capacity to investigate the resilience of organizations and the robustness of the broader system of disaster response. Four case study countries (Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and Vanuatu) were chosen for deeper investigation of the range of issues present in the Pacific. Key findings were that adaptive capacity was enhanced by strong informal communication and relationships as well as formal relationships, appropriate participation of traditional leaders and churches, and recognition and support for the critical role national disaster management offices play in disaster coordination. Adaptive capacity was found to be constrained by lack of clear policies for requesting international assistance, lack of coordinated disaster assessments, and limited human resources for health in disaster response. Limitations in psychosocial support and Australian medical services to meet specific needs were observed. Finally, the research revealed that both Pacific and Australian disaster-response agencies would benefit from a strengthened ‘future’ focus to better plan for uncertainty and changing risks.
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