Disease the second emergency for Vanuatu without clean water

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 16 Mar 2015

Vanuatu could face a second emergency with waterborne disease a real risk if the need for clean water, sanitation and hygiene is not met, Oxfam said today.

Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collett van Rooyen, said a lack of enough clean water, temporary toilets, water purification tablets and hygiene kits needed to be addressed rapidly.

“Friday night was the first emergency with the arrival of Cyclone Pam, disease will be the second emergency without clean water, sanitation and hygiene provision,” Mr Collett van Rooyen said.

More Oxfam Humanitarian Emergency responders arrived in Vanuatu this afternoon along with other aid workers on a RAAF plane carrying 17,500kg of Australian Aid.

More aid arrived yesterday and with Australia, New Zealand and the UK pledging aid, much more is expected to arrive in the coming days and weeks.

“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.

“There are more than 100,000 people likely homeless, every school destroyed, full evacuation centres, damage to health facilities and the morgue,” Mr Collet van Rooyen said.

“Reports today of catastrophic devastation in Erromango and Tanna Islands in the south with non concrete buildings completely flattened and the few concrete buildings without roofs confirm that there are still many many people in need across the archipelago.

“The aid that is beginning to arrive now is very welcome, but we will need much more,” he said.

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

Oxfam is committed to helping Vanuatu 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.With more than 250,000 people at risk from the severe tropical cyclone there is real concern of a potentially high death toll and of enormous destruction, particularly given the traditional housing that is so prevalent through the islands. Dr Szoke said grave fears were held for those people on the outer islands with little or no protection from the 250kmh winds.

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 www.oxfam.org.au/cyclonepam or by calling 1800 034 034

For interviews, including from Oxfam’s staff on the ground or more information, please contact John Lindsay on +61 (0) 423 456 046 or johnlindsay@oxfam.org.au or Angus Hohenboken in Vanuatu on +61 (0) 428 367 318 or angush@oxfam.org.au