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Photo: Nasi Tuan

New shoots of hope emerge in cyclone-hit Vanuatu

By Mark Lang | 11 Mar 2016

More than 20,000 people in Vanuatu have been helped by Tearfund's partners in the year since Cyclone Pam.

‘Here, look at this.’

Young mum Neslyn points to a pile of giant purple sweet potato on the ground: ‘This is the first harvest of sweet potato we planted after Cyclone Pam!’

It’s a rare moment of celebration for Neslyn, who’s had a tough time after her homeland of Vanuatu was smashed up a year ago by the fiercest tropical storm to ever hit the South Pacific nation.

In the first few days after the storm, food was in short supply. Neslyn survived by eating coconuts that had fallen in the storm and by salvaging what she could from her garden.

To make matters worse, she came out in sores and suffered diarrhoea because the water supply was contaminated after Pam.

‘The food [from a Tearfund’s partner] came just in time,’ said Neslyn, who along with other families in her community of South East Ambrym received three distributions of supplies.

Peanuts are a key cash crop on Tanna, which Nasi Tuan is helping locals to grow again after the cyclone. Photo: Nasi Tuan

Tearfund partner Nasi Tuan is helping people on the island of Tanna grow crops by supplying tools and new know-how. Photos: Nasi Tuan

Shelter kits

Besides food, our partner provided fresh water, hygiene goods, and water filtration gear.

Shelter kits, comprising of a hammer, bush knife, spade, rope and nails, were also supplied so survivors could secure their homes against the elements.

Tarpaulin sheets were distributed so people could cover their damaged thatched roofs. They are still in evidence 12 months on, because the traditional material used for thatch grows on a tree that was mostly destroyed during the cyclone.

Our partner’s activities in South East Ambrym continue now. Staff are soon to work on a permanent water system and better toilets.

Resident John Andre is appreciative of what Tearfund’s partner has done: ‘They were the first organisation that came to help us,’ he said.

On the neighbouring island of Tanna, our partner Nasi Tuan has been helping locals who rely on cash crops, such as coffee and peanuts, to cope with a post-cyclone future. The tropical storm destroyed many staple crops and it could take two years before things return to normal.

Cyclone Pam was one of the worst natural disasters to hit Vanuatu. It caused widespread damage to infrastructure, destroying or damaging 15,000 homes and affected more than 160,000 people.

Thousands helped

Some areas of Tanna are doing better than others. Central areas are very fertile, so fast growing vegetables, such as carrots and cabbage, have done well. But the El Niño weather phenomenon has brought higher temperatures and less rain, which has hampered crop growth in the north.

Tearfund’s support has enabled more than 18,000 people to receive tools so they can resume work on the gardens.

Other help has included:

Your support for our Vanuatu emergency appeal has helped more than 20,000 people so far. Thank you!

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Written by Mark Lang