Lately the news has been riddled with coverage about the destruction following Cyclone Pam in the small chain of islands in the South Pacific that make up the country of Vanuatu. In our house, this news hits close to home as this is where Jeff lived during his 2 and a half years in the Peace Corps.
Most of the coverage has focused on Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu and the most ‘well off’ area in the country both financially and structurally. In Port Vila you’ll find cruise ship ports, concrete buildings, a proper airport, tin roofs, and paved roads – infrastructure Cyclone Pam has turned to rubble.
The news has also been quick to relate Vanuatu to the ever-popular reality TV show Survivor; in 2004 the show was hosted there. Funny story about Survivor (if you are a fan of the show skip ahead to the next paragraph now), the show was produced just north of Port Vila, by far the most populated part of the country and consisted simply of a fenced off area just outside the city. Jeff retells stories from other volunteers about locals passing food through to the fence to the participants on the show. TV magic at it’s best I suppose.
I share all of this to say that, yes, while Port Vila was hit very hard by the storm, we must not forget about the neighboring villages and islands where preliminary fly over reports show significant damage particularly in the south and the east of the country. Although communication still hasn’t been re-established with many of the outer islands, early reports suggest that there will be many deaths (the latest number we’ve seen is 28) and the destruction more significant than Vanuatu has seen in past storms.
While the news tends to focus on the destruction of homes and buildings, the loss of crops and contamination of water sources is really a much more significant issue. Tanna Island located south of Port Vila, well known for a spectacular active volcano, is believed to have lost an astonishing 100% of their food sources. It will take months before crops can be harvested again.
It’s very likely that these parts of Vanuatu will feel the impact of this storm much longer than its popular sister town of Port Vila.
Jeff received a few phone calls from his Peace Corps buddies this past weekend and they discussed how we can best assist their Vanuatu families. Mostly the conversations consisted of where to send donations to try and ensure that the aid makes it out of the capital to the towns and villages that they lived in and care about. At this point, sending money helps them way more than physically making the trip over there to assist with the rebuilt. Plus, at the cost to travel there, that’s money that could go towards rebuilding water systems and replacing their crops – the things they need most right now.
After some digging around, we’re recommending donations be sent to Save the Children, an organization we believe has the most consistent presence in country and typically does a better job of getting assistance outside of the capital to the more rural areas.
If you have any questions Jeff is happy to respond and prayers are always appreciated.
Read more about our trip in 2013 HERE.