Grave fears for Vanuatu’s outer islands

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Mar 2015

As the death toll from Cyclone Pam begins to rise reports are now coming out of the small southern Vanuatu island of Tanna that there is almost no food or clean water and very little medical assistance for the 30,000 people who live there.

Tanna, which took the full force of the 250kmh Cyclone Pam, is one of the small outer islands of the Vanuatu archipelago which is extremely hard to reach with aid supplies because of logistical challenges.

Oxfam Country Director in Port Vila, Colin Collett van Rooyen, said as Port Vila began the long clean up after Cyclone Pam there were grave concerns for people in the outer islands.

“Getting to these islands in the best of times can be a challenge but getting to them now is very very difficult,” he said.

“It could take between three days to a week to reach people in these more remote communities and every day counts in a situation like this for people who are injured and without food and clean water.

The UN said last night 24 people were now confirmed dead, with 3,300 displaced.

Mr Collett van Rooyen said a lack of enough clean water, temporary toilets, water purification tablets and hygiene kits in all areas damaged by the cyclone 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 yesterday along with other aid workers on a RAAF plane carrying 17,500kg of Australian Aid.

“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.

“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 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.

You can support Oxfam’s response to humanitarian crises by donating to our Cyclone Pam Appeal at 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 or Angus Hohenboken in Vanuatu on +61 (0) 428 367 318 or