AID agencies are rushing to deliver humanitarian relief to the
Pacific islands of Vanuatu, which were devastated by Cyclone Pam
over the weekend.
The Category-5 storm hit the collection of small islands, some
of the poorest countries in the world, at wind speeds of up to 180
mph. At least 11 people are known to have died, and the death toll
is expected to rise.
Aid had started to arrive at some of the larger islands in
Vanuatu by Wednesday, but conditions on the smaller islands were
unknown. A coalition of faith-based NGOs, the ACT Alliance, said on
Wednesday that as many as 200,000 people - 80 per cent of the
population - were in need of assistance.
The international development charity World Vision, which has 80
people working in the archipelago, said that, although they were
able to build up supplies of water, food, tarpaulins, and hygiene
kits in advance of the storm, there was still a need for more.
The New Zealand branch of World Vision issued a statement
saying: "The full impact is not yet known, but we believe the
cyclone has caused heavy flooding, landslides, and mass destruction
The Anglican Church of Melanesia, which includes Vanuatu, said
that it was yet to hear from any of its bishops or diocesan
secretaries in the islands.
In an email on Wednesday, the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most
Revd David Vunagi, said: "As the days go by, I become more anxious
than ever. Vanuatu is still silent. Since Easter is not far off, I
am only focusing on hope."
In an earlier message, he had explained that phone calls and
emails to Vanuatu had not yet been answered. "Here in [the] Solomon
Islands [where Archbishop Vunagi is based], some islands in the
diocese of Temotu, like Tikopia and Anuta, may be badly affected;
but, again, reports are slow in coming.
"Apart from gardens being washed away and houses falling down in
some areas, [the] Solomon Islands is generally OK; but, again, we
are still waiting for reports."
A UK charity that supports the Church of Melanesia, the
Melanesian Mission, has launched an appeal to raise money for the
Church. It also asked Christians in Britain to pray for those who
have been left bereaved by the cyclone.
The Mission's chair of trustees, the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt
Revd Nigel Stock, said that they were still waiting to hear from
the Anglican dioceses in Vanuatu. "The Melanesian Mission is doing
what it can, through prayer, and by sharing information with other
agencies working in the region. Supporters and parishes across the
UK have responded very generously with donations, and, as soon as
it can, the charity will transfer these relief funds direct to the
The President of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, issued an appeal for
help shortly after Cyclone Pam hit the country. He said that the
storm had "wiped out" all development in Vanuatu, and that they
would have to rebuild "everything".
Almost every house in the capital, Port Vila, is reported to be
damaged in some way. Oxfam Australia's country director in Vanuatu,
Colin Collet van Rooyen, said that there was no power in the
hospital, and that the morgue was severely damaged.
"Clean water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies are also a major
issue for those left homeless, and also those in evacuation
centres, where there simply are not enough toilets or clean water
for the amount of people in those facilities," he said.
An employee from Tearfund New Zealand, Andrew Finlay, who
arrived in Vanuatu as the cyclone hit, said that the islands were
"a hive of activity" as the survivors started to rebuild their
homes and harvest what food was left in their gardens.
"The real hardship will kick in in a few weeks, when those
provisions run out and the gardens lie bare," he said. "There will
be less food in the market, and people will struggle to afford the
imported food. Our priority . . . is going to be to work with the
people to get seeds in the ground - quick turn-around crops will
ensure that this food shortage is minimised as much as
The Methodist Church's relief organisation All We Can has given
£10,000 to the ACT Alliance; and Christian Aid has contributed an
initial £25,000. Christian Aid's senior climate-change adviser,
Mohamed Adow, said that Cyclone Pam should be seen as a warning of
the danger that climate change poses to poor island nations.
"While it is difficult to attribute any one event to climate
change, scientists are clear that it makes extreme events like
Cyclone Pam more likely," he said. "Rich countries must put forward
in advance their own carbon-cutting targets, and set out their
support for the poorer countries which are already bearing the
brunt of climate change."