Young people play important role as peer counselors for psychosocial recovery after Cyclone Pam

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original
Mother of four Leonie James and her 1-year-old son, John Billy Yapson, sit beside the remains of what was their home at Sulphur Bay village on Tanna Island. Leonie's home was completely flattened by Cyclone Pam and she lost everything, including her son's © UNICEF Pacific/2015/Vlad Sokhin

Tanna, Vanuatu, 27 April 2015 – Young people from across Vanuatu are leading peer-to-peer orientation and outreach activities in their communities, supporting recovery efforts following Category 5 tropical Cyclone Pam, which devastated the island nation just over a month ago.

“After any disaster it is critical to ensure that the immediate and basic needs of affected people are met” said Dr Karen Allen, UNICEF Pacific Representative. “It is also important to pay close attention to the psychosocial needs of people, following traumatic events such as Cyclone Pam.”

As part of an integrated humanitarian response and efforts to build back a better and stronger Vanuatu, UNICEF and the Ministry of Youth Development and Training are supporting young people so that they can help others to recover emotionally. The training includes recreation and sports activities, group discussions, art and drama.

“Tropical Cyclone Pam is the worst disaster in Vanuatu’s recorded history. These kinds of events often have a significant impact on people in ways that may be less visible but are still very significant in terms of emotional stress and psychological impact, especially on children and young people, whose emotional coping skills are still developing,” said Dr Allen.

This week, newly-trained young people in Northern Tanna in Vanuatu’s Tafea Province have been reaching out to others in their communities to harness and strengthen resilience.

“Young people have an important role to play in their communities and this kind of training is very useful, especially for us to not only look at some of the issues affecting young people but also children and other community members. It is important for us to help each other and support one another so we are very thankful for these orientations that have attended,” says Vira Taivakalo, President of the National Youth Council in Vanuatu. “This is just the beginning – we will continue the good work we started here and we have started to develop plans that we want to implement in our communities as part of this psychosocial orientation.”

Twenty six youth representatives from different parts of Vanuatu participated in a two-day orientation on psychosocial support through peer education facilitated by the Ministry of Youth Development and Training with support from UNICEF. Participants included youth representatives from the Vanuatu National Youth Council, Vanuatu Society for Disabled Persons, Just Play programme and Vanuatu Scouts Association from Efate, Shephards and Tafea province.

This initiative follows a series of orientations that began in late March, when 30 participants undertook a basic Child Protection in Emergencies workshop for humanitarian workers, including non-governmental organisations and child protection facilitators. This was followed by a Training of Trainers, when teachers and caregivers were shown how to use new, locally-produced psychosocial materials designed for children under 12 years of age.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, please contact:

Vika Waradi, Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Vanuatu Field Office: Phone +678 5477798 or Email:

Donna Hoerder, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Pacific, Suva, Fiji: Phone +679 3236 111 or Email: