Just Play emergency response programme supports Vanuatu after natural disaster!

Earlier this year Vanuatu issued a state of emergency after being hit by twin tropical cyclones, Judy, and Kevin causing an estimated US$50 million in damage.

To support the affected children and communities dealing with the widespread devastation, Vanuatu Football Federation have initiated the delivery of the Just Play Emergency Response Programme.

The Sport for Development programme uses the power of football to issue psychosocial support to children after an emergency. Children learn through play and gain meaningful knowledge such as how to keep themselves and their families safe following a natural disaster.

Integrating football into Vanuatu’s Emergency Response is made possible by the ongoing local partnerships with UNICEF Vanuatu, The Ministry of Youth, The Ministry of Education, and the clusters under the Vanuatu NDMO.

Just Play Emergency Response was developed in 2014 following the devastation caused by Cyclone Ian and the programme, developed with the support of UNICEF Pacific has been used with increasing frequency including once before in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam in 2015.

“Due to climate change, we are seeing more and more extreme weather events. WE are fortunate to have the infrastructure and planning in place for Football to play its part in supporting individuals and communities through their recovery” OFC Head of Social Responsibility, Mike Armstrong said.

The impacts in Tonga were clear with the programme resulting in a 63% increase in the number of children reporting feeling happy. 87% of teachers in Tonga believe that the Emergency program assisted children psychologically and 78% of children were happier to be in school after the Just Play Emergency program.

The astounding work and considerable progress that had been made across waters created an opportunity for regional support and collaboration between Vanuatu and Tonga.

Social Responsibility Manager in Tonga, Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa believes the same results can be achieved in Vanuatu.

“Because of the successful rolling out of this program in Tonga, we were invited to local Vanuatu teachers and community volunteers, so they can reach out to the affected areas and train teachers to seamlessly deliver the program,” said Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa.

9-year-old Rengsy from Vanuatu describes her experience with the programme. “I was just so excited when I heard that Just Play Emergency Programme was coming to visit my community. I could not sleep at night before they came to play with us.”

“During their visit, we played games and learnt how we need to do things differently. We played games that showed us how to wash the ash off our food before we eat and cook it. We also learnt how to make the water safe to drink by boiling it.”

The benefits of the Emergency Response have also extended to the leaders of the programme. VFF (Vanuatu Football Federation) Just Play Development Officer and Instructor Namaha Takifu, a schoolteacher by profession, explains: “I look forward to the impact of the programme as a solution, especially in the psychosocial support, specifically the children and I believe this will bring a recovery, an impact. I learn from the children and it has impacted my life, that is why I have stayed with the programme.”

The Just Play Emergency Response Programme was developed with the support of UNICEF. Its delivery is made possible due to long-standing partnerships with Australian Aid through the Team Up Programme, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the UEFA Foundation for Children.

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