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PRESS RELEASE January 24, 2020

Vanuatu: New Transport Project Will Improve Resilience to Disasters, Access to Markets

New US$66 million project to rehabilitate South Santo Road will support planning and maintenance

WASHINGTON, January 23, 2020 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a US$35.5 million credit and a US$30.5 million grant in support for a resilient transport project that will upgrade the vital 65-kilometer South Santo Road, on Vanuatu’s second most-populated island of Espiritu Santo, to guard against potential climate impacts and natural disaster risks.

The project will significantly improve access to markets and essential services and contribute to faster, safer and more reliable road transport in Santo island. Wider impacts will be felt across the country with 10 percent of Vanuatu’s total population to see benefits from the works and technical assistance.

Vanuatu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change and natural disaster risks. The nation has been hard-hit by cyclones, drought, flooding and subsequent landslides in recent years, all of which are expected to become more intense due to climate change.

When disasters do occur, transport systems, and especially river crossing and roads on the perimeters of islands, often bear a large share of the damage. Transport disruptions can then have serious effects across the entire economy; cutting off access to essential services, severely hampering disaster response efforts and slowing economic recovery.

The Vanuatu Climate Resilient Transport Project will rehabilitate the South Santo Road, which is a priority of the Vanuatu government, as it is the only road connecting the southern and western part of the island of Santo with its capital, Luganville. The road serves as a critical link for fishing and agricultural produce to reach markets in Luganville, as well as providing access to health, education, social services and for tourism.

“We are very pleased to be working with the World Bank on the Climate Resilient Transport Project. Investment in public infrastructure, especially roads and other connections, is essential for Vanuatu’s economy. Improved climate resilience of the South Santo Road will allow people to access markets and services, and the project will assist the government in the better management and maintenance of roads, ensuring lasting benefits for Vanuatu,” said Hon. Gaetan Pikioune, Caretaker Minister of Finance and Economic Management.  

In addition to the design, construction and maintenance of the South Santo Road, the project will also strengthen the management of road assets for climate resilience across Vanuatu through technical assistance and project support. This includes an upgrade of Vanuatu’s road inventory management system to improve planning and better prioritize road maintenance based on climate and disaster risks. 

The project also takes Vanuatu’s continued vulnerability to climate change and severe weather events into consideration by allowing the government to reallocate project funds to emergency response and reconstruction if a swift response to a natural disaster or emergency is necessary.

“We’re proud to be supporting Vanuatu to deliver a major upgrade of such critical transport infrastructure,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.  “This is now the fourth project being delivered through the wider Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program, which is focused on enhancing the climate resilience of transport infrastructure across the region. The combination of ‘hard’ infrastructure investments and ‘soft’ capacity building support through this project will help Vanuatu effectively manage more resilient infrastructure for decades to come.”

With the addition of this new project the World Bank now has five active projects in Vanuatu totaling US$131.5 million across sectors including transport, energy, climate resilience and adaptation.




Hamish Wyatt
+61 450 517 534
Nicholas Keyes
+1 202 473 9135