Geneva, Sunday 15 March 2015
1. Brief description of the emergency and impact
Between Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March, category five severe tropical cyclone Pam hit the Pacific Island Nation of Vanuatu. The cyclone was one of the strongest ever recorded in the Pacific Islands with sustained winds of 270km/hr gusting to 360km/hr. The United Nations has stated that Pam could be one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the Pacific. Vanuatu’s President, Baldwin Lonsdale, has appealed to the global community for help. Thousands of people are in temporary shelters. Entire communities were severely damaged in some areas. Islands in the north and south of Vanuatu were hit most directly. Whilst eight people have been confirmed dead it is expected that the final death toll will be much higher. Communications are down, many areas are inaccessible and information about civilian safety outside of the capital of Port Vila is not known. Hospital services in the capital of Port Vila are inadequate, clean water is unavailable, electricity services are down, the one international airport was damaged and is closed to commercial operations. It is expected that the total population of around 220,000 people are affected.
2. Why is an ACT response needed?
Vanuatu ranks number one on the list of disaster vulnerable countries. The scale of this disaster is well beyond the means of local agencies and the government of Vanuatu to cope with. Whilst strong efforts in disaster preparedness have been implemented for several years, communities outside the capital of Port Vila are particularly vulnerable due to lack of government services and reliance on subsistence farming for survival. Act for Peace, along with other NGOs and the government of Vanuatu have been supporting local communities with disaster preparedness for several years. However disaster response infrastructure is poor, the majority of the population live in unstable dwellings with variable access to clean water and health facilities. A large response is needed to provide lifesaving services including medical, food, WASH and shelter. A longer term response will be required for rebuilding and reestablishing basic infrastructure, homes, schools and livelihoods. There is also unprecedented damage to the country’s subsistence agricultural sector. Whilst initial emergency relief activities are essential for saving lives, rebuilding basic infrastructure and restoration of farmlands and livelihoods is essential for the long term.