Resilience: Vanuatu is prone to natural disasters which create local devastation and loss of livelihoods. The localised nature and significant scale of these disasters means that they tend to overwhelm the local coping capacity and mutual assistance capabilities of extended families and relatives living on other islands..
Urban areas tend to be poorer than rural ones. The worst affected islands, Tanna and Eromango, have relatively high poverty levels (10-33%). In the other two most affected islands, Aneytum and Efate, poverty ranges between 3 and 10%, except in Port Vila city, where rates are much higher (18%) (Census 2009).
People in urban areas are mostly dependent on wage or salaried income. In rural areas, own home production and household enterprise are the main income sources. Despite lower poverty in rural area, the rural subsistence type of livelihoods are more likely to be impacted.
Housing conditions are precarious. About 65% of households in Tafea province live in houses with walls and roofs made of traditional material. This contrasts with about 2% of households in Port Villa (Census 2009).
Social assistance programs: There are four main social assistance programs in the Republic of Vanuatu. The existing social assistance programmes include Home Island Passage Allowance, scholarship allowance, family assistance support program, and disaster assistance.
While there is no public sector cash social assistance, there are some elements of direct service provision to broader population groups which replace some of the needs for specific social assistance
When disasters strike, the government usually seeks external aid when resources are needed, since there is no permanent government fund to assist those affected by disaster. For the duration of the emergency, assistance such as food, clean water, clothing, blankets, temporary shelter, and transport, may be provided to disaster victims.
Livelihoods: The major livelihood activities in the affected areas are related to agriculture - predominantly coconut, roots and tubers, cocoa, and fruits and vegetables. Copra, the dry meat of coconut, is by far the most significant agricultural export.
Agriculture: Over 80% of the population in Vanuatu is engaged in agriculture, both for subsistence and cash crops, such as coconuts and kava. Coconut plantations - the key agricultural commodity in the country - are likely to have been severely damaged. Given the heavy reliance of communities on coconuts and coconut products, impact on livelihoods is likely to be long-lasting.
Fisheries: Fishing may have been disrupted due to severe winds resulting in loss of fishing boats and other assets.
Daily labour: Demand for daily labour (for debris removal, etc.) is likely to be high in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone.
Cyclone season: Normally during November-April..
Typical diet: There is a large disparity between urban and rural diets. Rural populations rely mostly on self-grown root crops such as yam, manioc and taro, starchy fruits such as plantain, breadfruit and banana, fresh fish, and coconut products. Two thirds of their food is from own production. Dried breadfruit is particularly important as a survival food after cyclones, when other crop plants have been destroyed. Most food is boiled or grilled, Food is rarely fried and vegetable oil is rarely used.
Urban populations, on the other hand, buy most of their food and have a less traditional diet, with imported items such as rice, instant noodles, oils/ fats and canned fish being commonly consumed.
Nutrition: Obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are significant problems, particularly amongst urban populations, One quarter of infants receive complimentary food before the age of 6 months, Malaria represents a public health concern especially during and after the rainy season.
Assistance food basket: See Page 4 for potential options.
Logistics, Infrastructure & Markets
Air airport: There are 26 domestic airstrips and three airports able to accommodate international flights (in Tafea, Luganville and Port Vila). Not all islands have airports. The airfield at Port Vila, the main international airport, has been badly damaged but military and commercial flights have already begun to arrive.
Land and sea transport: Maritime transport is the main means of inter-island freight transport. Not all islands have wharfs or landing sites. Road access is generally good in Vanuatu, with ⅔ of the population living less than 10 minutes from a main road.
Communications: Limited mobile communication is back up in Port Vila, but not in islands from Tafea province. Preliminary estimates suggest 80% of power lines are down in Port Vila and will not be fully restored for several weeks. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), located in Port Vila, has sustained damage to its HF radio, and is unable to communicate to emergency services or to send community announcements.
Market Capacity & Constraints: Reliance on markets varies widely between urban and rural households: rural households only buy one third of their food, compared to 80% for urban ones. Of the food items bought on markets, some are produced locally and the rest are imported, mostly from Australia (35% of imports) and Fiji (30%).
Market constraints are likely to include transport and storage constraints, stock loss, poor food quality, high buying price, lack of demand, lack of credit, and irregular supply.