Australia is sending aid and assistance to Vanuatu after a pair of cyclones caused destruction across multiple provinces. The country’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has reported that about 80 percent of the population has been affected, including 125,500 children.
The devastating cyclones, which hit just days apart, destroyed buildings and homes, leaving many without power, clean water, or telecommunications. Farmers in some provinces have reported total devastation of crops, and food shortages are expected in the coming weeks.
To help with recovery efforts, Australia is sending a small rapid assistance team and humanitarian supplies, as well as an ADF ship with over 600 personnel on board. The team is skilled in areas such as humanitarian and damage assessment, hazardous materials, power, health, and infrastructure, and will work with the government of Vanuatu to understand what the needs are on the ground.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, has described the situation as a “sad state of affairs”. The priority is to re-connect power and telecommunication services and to get fresh water to affected areas. A national state of emergency has been announced for the next six months.
Vanuatu cafe owner Lopez Adams, who is leading a community clean-up effort, said it had been a difficult few days. However, he noted that the damage from the cyclones was not as bad as Cyclone Pam in 2015, which devastated Vanuatu.
Many people, such as Ni-Vanuatu woman Samantha Kalanga, who works in Australia, are waiting anxiously for updates about their families. Over 2,000 kilometres from her home in Shefa province, she said she and fellow seasonal workers “all feel bad” for their loved ones. The cyclone has damaged food and gardening, leaving many relying on government or aid donors for support.
The road to recovery will be long, but with the help of international aid and support, the people of Vanuatu will hopefully be able to rebuild their lives and communities.