With homes, schools, hospitals, churches, crops and basic infrastructure all left devastated after Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu at the weekend, thousands have been left without food, shelter and medical attention. And with the initial death-toll rising as communication is re-established with the more remote islands, it’s becoming clear the survivors are desperately in need of help.
Here our contributor Adam Boland – author and ambassador of The Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research & Lifeline – gives a first-hand account of the devastation in Vanuatu where he lives.
While International relief efforts have already kicked in (the Australian government has pledged $5 million with military support on the ground) Aid Agencies are pleading for donations amongst claims this could be the worst storm ever to have hit the region.
Helen Szoke, executive director in Australia for the aid group Oxfam, said “This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific” and UNICEF reporting on Sunday that some 60,000 children are in need of help.
The Carousel’s ‘Cut To The Chase’ contributor Adam Boland lives in Vanuatu with his partner, Kenny Ang. While thankfully they escaped unhurt, we asked Adam to give us an account of their post-Cyclone Pam situation. This is his first-hand account of the devastation he has witnessed since the Pacific storm hit – and why we should help during this crisis.
You may know Vanuatu from its five star beach resorts but in reality, it is a developing country with very basic infrastructure. It has no means to cope with a disaster of this size. Everywhere I look, I see devastation. There’s no power, limited water, limited fuel. Drainage doesn’t work so we are starting to see more mosquitoes which will inevitably lead to outbreaks of dengue fever and malaria. Many, many people no longer have homes. This country rarely asks for much but really does now need help.
It’s worth remembering that Vanuatu is a country of more than 80 islands. At least 60 are home to people. It is really hard to know yet how some of the smaller and more remote islands coped. Communication networks are down and airstrips are blocked. Most didn’t have proper cyclone shelters so we expect to see a rising death toll. They will need everything from food to water pumps to medical supplies. And of course, they will need somewhere to live. Everyone here is holding their breath until we hear the true extent of damage.
The day after the cyclone, many people were walking around in a daze. Nobody expected it to be as brutal as it was. We lost power about six hours before it hit so the last advice we received had the cyclone moving away from the coast. In the end, we took an almost direct hit. People are coming to terms with the reality now. You queue for two hours to get petrol. We are swimming to our home each day because the bridge was washed away. We don’t have a choice about it. Everyone here is just needing to cope.
Vanuatu depends on tourism and agriculture. Both industries have just copped a major whack. And that has flow on effects to the many people who rely on those industries for employment. I’m also really worried about the coral reefs that surround the islands. They were already under pressure from climate change. We don’t know how they coped. The recovery here won’t be quick. Once the story leaves the front page, all I can ask is: please don’t forget us.
For more information on how you can help humanitarian organisations providing shelter, clean water and sanitation in Vanuatu follow the links below.
- Donate Planet
- Australian Red Cross
- CARE International
- Save the Children
- Oxfam Australia
- World Vision
- Samaritan’s Purse
- UNICEF New Zealand
- UNICEF Australia
- UNICEF International
- International Medical Corps
All photos courtesy of Adam Boland and Kenny Ang.
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