Aid to begin reaching Vanuatu’s devastated outer islands today as food shortages loom

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 18 Mar 2015

Aid should today begin to reach the hard hit southern Vanuatu islands of Tanna and Erromango, which both took the full force of the 250kmh Cyclone Pam, after rapid assessments of the islands showed absolute devastation with entire villages destroyed.

The rapid assessments of Vanuatu’s outer islands carried out yesterday reported that many villages on the islands had 80 to 100 per cent of buildings damaged or destroyed.

More teams of humanitarian workers will arrive in the islands today to begin delivering aid and a ferry full of relief supplies should arrive in Tanna island, home to nearly 30,000 people, early tomorrow.

Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collett van Rooyen, said aerial assessments of some other small islands yesterday reported that residents were signaling for help.

“The aerial assessments of Ambryn island reported large white ‘Hs’ marked out on the ground by people signaling for help, and on Tongoa island people holding up mirrors also signaling for help,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

While the death toll was yesterday revised down to 11 by the UN there are real concerns about the potential for disease because of the need for clean water and sanitation equipment and a real concern about the increasing lack of food.

“Friday night was the first emergency with the arrival of Cyclone Pam and the destruction it caused, disease will be the second emergency without clean water, sanitation and hygiene provision, and food shortages will be the third emergency because of crop devastation,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

“The Vanuatu Government is working hard for its people but the need for humanitarian aid in response to this crisis is enormous,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Helen Szoke said Oxfam Australia had launched a full scale appeal to help the many thousands of people affected by the devastating cyclone.

“The people of Vanuatu and their government have shown enormous strength in the aftermath of this disaster and Oxfam is committed to helping them for as long as it takes,” she said.

Cyclone Pam made a direct hit on Vanuatu on Friday night, tearing through the archipelago with winds of up to 250kmh. Port Vila was recently named in the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas and is known as the city most exposed to natural disasters in the world because it faces a combination of risks including earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and tropical cyclones such as Cyclone Pam.

You can support Oxfam’s response to humanitarian crises by donating to our Cyclone Pam Appeal at or by calling 1800 034 034