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Pacific nations call for Red Cross action on climate change

By Jemima Garrett for Pacific Beat, Thursday November 14, 2013 - 17:33 EDT
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PNG Red Cross secretary general Esmie Sinapa at the General assembly in Sydney. - ABC

Pacific nations want the international Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to put more emphasis on helping their members adapt to climate change.

Representatives from 189 countries are attending the Red Cross General Assembly, which is discussing how to improve aid to vulnerable people in developed and developing nations.

The 11 Pacific countries represented at the conference are calling on the organisation to put more focus on climate change and disaster risk reduction.

"The main issue of [sic] people back home is climate change and all the issues that are associated with climate change," Tuvalu Red Cross' secretary general Tataua Pese said.

"And working together with my sister National Societies in the Pacific, it is something we very much wanted to be taken on board in the General Assembly so that the movement considers taking on climate change and disaster risk reduction."

Kathleen Walsh, the Australian Red Cross' Pacific manager, is backing their campaign.

"Climate change is a new vulnerability on top of a lot of other vulnerability's for communities," she said.

Ms Walsh says the message from the Pacific is an important one. She says the Australian Red Cross is increasing its effort on climate change adaptation in the region.

Standing in solidarity with typhoon-devastated Philippines

As the Pacific heads into its own cyclone season, island nations at the assembly have expressed their condolences to people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

"Like everyone, we are very sorry about the situation," Hannington Aloatoa, the president of the Vanuatu Red Cross, said.

"At the same time we need to take action and, as a group the Asia Pacific, certainly the Pacific leaders... are sending a statement to the Philippines Red Cross to say we are standing in solidarity and we are feeling the suffering."

Mr Aloatoa says the Philippines' experience offers lessons for Vanuatu on disaster preparedness.

"We need to learn from that experience and we ourselves have had a few disasters in the last 10 or 15 years," he said.

Many Pacific countries, including Vanuatu and Cook Islands, have Filipinos living and working in their tourism and other industries.

The frightening consequences of Typhoon Haiyan have touched people's hearts but not stopped them from addressing the longer-term issues that are the bread and butter of Red Cross and Red Cresecent General Assembly.

The organisation has been looking at how to respond better to the needs of vulnerable, displaced and conflict-affected people around the world.

In the Pacific, much of the focus is on the gamut of health issues and getting the Red Cross' services out to remote areas.

Liz Daimol, chairperson of the Red Cross' sub-branch on Papua New Guinea's Lihir Island, is happy she has been able to meet with so many other Pacific delegations.

"Although what we look at are common, how we deal with them in our own context is quite different," she said.

"I am taking back a lot of new things that I have learnt from them.

"I find that in a lot of ways other Pacific islands have really empowered their youth. Papua New Guinea needs to rise and support our youth more."


© ABC 2013

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