18 March 2015
Tropical Cyclone Pam has ripped through the remote islands of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean, causing chaos and destruction. As ActionAid staff make their way to Vanuatu to help with the emergency response, here’s what we know so far about this humanitarian disaster.
Cyclone Pam: the damage so far
The category 5 Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila, on Efate Island on the evening of Friday 13 March. Information is still coming in about the impact, especially from the outlying islands. But reports say it’s the strongest storm to make landfall since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013.
What we do know is:
- Winds of up to 200 miles per hour have killed at least 50 people, with the death toll expected to rise.
- Damage is widespread and severe: the entire population of Vanuatu has been affected in some way.
- At least 10,000 people have been made homeless.
- Up to 90% of buildings in the capital Port Vila have been damaged.
- Power supplies are down and food and clean water are in short supply.
Where is Vanuatu?
Vanuatu is a nation made up of 82 islands stretching over a wide area of the Pacific Ocean, around 1,000 miles to the east of Australia.
It has a total population of around 250,000 people (about the same as the population of Reading or Plymouth).
Why has Vanuatu been so badly hit?
75% of Vanuatu’s population live in rural areas and remote islands. Many people don’t have access to basic health services, a regular or safe water supply, modern energy or reliable transport.
And that was the reality of life on Vanuatu before the cyclone struck.
As many people rely on agriculture and fishing to survive, their livelihoods are likely to have been completely wiped out by the damage.
What is ActionAid doing to help?
We’ve deployed a team of emergency specialists from Vanuatu’s neighbours Australia and from Asia to assess how we can best help right now. The President of Vanuatu has identified food, water and shelter as immediate priorities.
Our experience as a humanitarian agency tells us that every emergency is different, and that the needs of the people affected always vary. So we will work with the people of Vanuatu to establish what they need in this time of crisis and how we can provide it.