Published on 7th April 2015
Since Cyclone Pam swept through Vanuatu in March, VSA staff and volunteers have been working with their partner organisations and the Vanuatu government to support the country’s recovery.
Vanuatu Country Programme Manager Andrew Johnston says that while rebuilding will take time and considerable resources, “The Ni-Vanuatu people are extremely resilient. They deal with cyclones every couple of years, so after hundreds of years in this place, they’ve adapted. Cyclones of Pam’s magnitude are thankfully rarer, which is when they need the help.”
Still, he says, even the day after Pam made landfall, vital services were back up and running in many places. He visited a small clinic in Santo that was taking patients, without electricity or communications. “They were handwriting all their records and when I asked how they were coping, one of the nurses said, ‘This is how we always used to do it.’”
Andrew, who had one of the few satellite phones in Santo, worked with the local government and services such as banks to communicate with the other islands in the days after the cyclone, and in addition to looking after Vanuatu’s volunteers and liaising with their partner organisations, was looking for other ways to assist. He met a ship from Save the Children, for instance, helping to unload vital supplies at the wharf. Meanwhile VSA programme officer David Nalo became involved in the local Provincial Disaster Committee helping organise food supplies and relief to outer islands.
Several other Vanuatu volunteers have been reassigned or had their assignments altered to meet the challenges of recovery:
Dianne and Keith Hambrook: Working with Department of Tourism to assess and support all small tourism businesses around the province, working with several agencies and making sure tourism is ready to go again to kick-start the economy.
Elizabeth Brown: Based in Port Vila with World Vision, supporting the collation of assessment and relief distribution information throughout the three provinces in which we are working.
Grace Savage: Supporting the World Vision team in Port Vila to conduct situation assessments and track relief supplies. Grace's two other main focuses are grant management and supporting World Vision to develop their agriculture and livelihoods recovery strategy, including representing World Vision at the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster and the Tanna Agriculture Recovery Working Group.
Richard Robyns: Richard has been working through his partner organisation - VRDTCA - to help assess all the rural training centres and working with the NDMO Shelter Cluster to see how they can be part of the response.
Jill Greenhalgh: Jill is already back at work forming a plan to get agriculture started again, especially with the chicken programme and seed distribution.
Karen Roberts: Reassigned as HR and Logistics coordinator for the response, mainly in the southern provinces. Karen is a member of the National Disaster Management Office’s (NDMO) gender cluster group.
Mary O’Reilly: Being relocated to Port Vila to work with the local Municipal Council and dealing with the huge waste management issues in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.
Peter Brown: Based in Tanna as World Vision Assistant Base Manager. He is working with the Base Manager, Nini Tamasui, to liaise with local government and coordinate the relief effort. He is also working on ensuring good water quality within our host communities, including any necessary repairs to existing water systems installed under the Tanna Integrated Water, Sanitation and Health (WaSH) project.
Wendy Griffin: Immediately was integrated into the Education Cluster group, working on getting schools going again and finding all children around the country. She has now gone back to the Ministry, conducting assessments of all kindergartens and working with agencies like UNICEF to get supplies and emergency kits to communities.