Mark Mitchell, Humanitarian Programmes Coordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, witnessed the devastation of Cyclone Pam and has been part of the emergency relief efforts to get food and shelter to those most in need. Last week he returned home for Easter to spend time with his family in Wellington and reflected on what he had seen.
More than 15,000 Vanuatu homes have been destroyed, so securing access to shelter has been a top priority for the Caritas Oceania team – including Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Caritas Tonga and Caritas Australia. Mr Mitchell said that coordination of the response was going well and communications infrastructure is being reactivated. The Caritas team are distributing 2,500 tarpaulins to ensure that those families that are worst affected have shelter while they begin the process of rebuilding.
“What struck me most about the situation was the resilience of the people. Despite all they have gone through, they are simply getting on with the business of rebuilding their homes and livelihoods,” said Mr Mitchell.
“The local people have salvaged what they could. But even where people have been rebuilding there are holes in the iron roofing sheets, so we have been providing plastic sheeting which can help cover the holes and provide protection from the weather.”
In addition to providing shelter, the team is also helping with food distribution. Around 75 percent of vegetable crops and fruit crops were destroyed and 50 percent of livestock were lost in the Cyclone. Getting food to hungry people has therefore also been a key part of the relief effort.
Another impressive aspect of the relief efforts has been the ongoing coordination between various aid agencies and the government.
“The teams have worked well together and have maximised the existing relationships to ensure effective use of the resources deployed to help Vanuatu build back better,” said Mr Mitchell.
After a short break, Mr Mitchell will be returning to Vanuatu to continue the work on 12 April.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is appealing for donations to the Pacific Cyclone Relief fund to respond to immediate needs and help affected communities in Vanuatu rebuild their lives and livelihoods.