Vanuatu launches in-depth disaster assessment
The United Nations is warning the government and aid agencies supporting the recovery in Vanuatu not to let their guard down as they say the threat of a second disaster is very real.
As the rapid relief response to cyclone Pam continues to gain momentum in Vanuatu, the national disaster management office is already undertaking the next phase of assessments to try and capture the overall damage in the country.
Koroi Hawkins has more.
After weeks of frustrating delays, relief aid is finally starting to reach the remote communities of Vanuatu in some volume as the government's coordinated relief distribution plan goes into effect. Aid agencies are claiming that all of the 22 islands affected by cyclone Pam have been reached but that doesn't mean all small communities have received help. The Executive Director of UNICEF New Zealand Vivien Maidaborn explains the challenges.
VIVIEN MAIDABORN: It's really important that everybody has clean water everybody has a secure food source urgently because we know that there are communities who haven't had either of those things for two weeks now. So thats critical. But there is a very big acknowledgement that this is like 65 separate disasters and the logistics of getting supplies to Vanuatu is one thing. But the real difficulty begins getting it from Port Vila out on boats and then smaller boats onto islands. So you know I just think we have got to keep sharing information identifying where there are gaps feeding that into the clusters and getting it right.
The current emergency relief response is working on a three-month time line provided by the National Disaster Management Office. Basically it means that with an estimated 90 percent of all food gardens in affected areas destroyed, the NDMO feels three months is enough time for gardens to grow back so the mainly subsistence farming communities can start feeding themselves again. But village chiefs and farmers across Vanuatu say the three months timeframe is too short. Chief Peter Kakor of Teoma Bush on Efate whose village feeds not only itself but supplies Port Vila says the NDMO's plan will not be enough.
PETER KAKOR: As a farmer who lives in the bush and who supplies food to the market at Port Vila town. In three months the plants would have only started to grow. Now the hurricane has passed in three months time plants will only have just started to grow back. It will take another three months for food to be produced in the gardens if we replant our gardens. It will take six months, six to seven months. In three months the plants will have only just started to grow back.
The United Nations is also warning the government and aid agencies supporting the recovery in Vanuatu not to let their guard down as they say the threat of a second disaster is very real. The UNDP's Humanitarian Coordinator for Vanuatu Osnat Lubrani made the call from Port Vila this week after recent visits to the heavily affected Tafea province.
OSNAT LUBRANI: That's why I spoke about the second emergency we cannot put our guards down there is always the chance that if water does not arrive on time the water and sanitation problems can lead to infectious diseases and we don't want that to happen. The fact that there has been relatively low number of fatalities is on the positive side but we certainly dont want to let down our guard and end up with a worsening situation unless those basic needs are addressed.
Osnat Lubrani says a longer term plan is a must. She says she understands the National Disaster Management Office is already undertaking in-depth assessments which she says will look at the long term needs of victims of Pam. On Thursday Vanuatu's minister for climate change who is responsible for the recovery efforts held the first meeting with donor countries and international agencies to discuss the country's rehabilitation Cyclone Pam. James Bule told the aid donors the government is now assessing the damage to public infrastructure across all islands affected by the cyclone.
JAMES BULE: When this is done then we will be sure of the extent of the damage to the buildings as to how much the government is looking at and we need to seek assistance from the foreign governments and other international agencies to support us with this endeavour.
On top of the major issues facing Vanuatu there are also many smaller aspects to this disaster such as the lack of traditional building materials for villagers because the cyclone stripped the jungles of all foliage and the exaggeration of basic health issues with the destruction of medical aid posts across the islands. As it is approaching three weeks now since Pam hit, the government has extended its state of emergency because there is still so much to be done to help.
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