16 March 2015
On Friday, tropical Cyclone Pam swept through the Pacific island chain of Vanuatu, one of the strongest ever recorded in the Pacific islands.
So far, 24 people have been confirmed dead. Entire communities have been severely damaged and thousands of people are sheltering in evacuation centres.
‘An older woman and a teenager were killed by flying sheets of iron as they ran...’
Geoff Robinson from our ACT partner, Act for Peace, is in Vanuatu. On first seeing the devastation caused, he said: 'Damage and destruction, everywhere you look there is mess.
'Houses torn apart, vegetation and building materials strewn everywhere, big trees snapped like twigs, toppled over and flung, completely stripped of leaves.'
Photo courtesy of our ACT Alliance partner, Act for Peace
Watching people die
The people of Vanuatu are suffering, seeing terrible sights.
One man Geoff met saw two people die before his eyes on Tanna, one of the southern islands hardest hit by the cyclone.
He recalled: 'During the height of the cyclone, an older woman and a teenager were killed by flying sheets of iron as they ran to a building after their house was torn apart.'
Communications are down, many areas are inaccessible and information about civilian safety outside of the capital of Port Vila is not known.
Hospitals in the capital of Port Vila are struggling to meet health needs in this disaster. Clean water is unavailable and there is no electricity.
We are releasing an initial £25,000 to our partners on the ground to provide emergency supplies including food, water and shelter in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.
The funds will go to our sister organisations in the ACT Alliance best placed to provide immediate assistance to the islands’ 270,000 strong population.
Vanuatu is incredibly vulnerable to disasters, and the scale of Cyclone Pam is well beyond what local agencies and the Government of Vanuatu can cope with.
Speaking today at a UN conference on disaster risk reduction in Japan, Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, said the storm, which virtually wiped out Vanuatu’s development, was directly linked to climate change.
‘We see the level of sea rise …The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected. This year we have more than in any year … Yes, climate change is contributing to this,’ he said.
ACT, along with other NGOs and the Government of Vanuatu, has been supporting local communities to prepare for disasters for several years.
However, the response infrastructure is poor; the majority of the population live in unstable dwellings with variable access to clean water and health facilities.
While initial emergency relief activities are essential for saving lives, rebuilding basic infrastructure and restoration of farmlands and livelihoods is essential for the long-term.
Find out more
See our Facebook photo gallery showing some of the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam.
ACT Alliance is a global coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organisations working together to fight acute poverty.