Ti­tahi Bay res­i­dent has been in Van­u­atu, help­ing lo­cals deal with the dev­as­ta­tion of Cy­clone Pam. This is her story.


Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

It is with mixed emo­tions that I board the Auck­land-bound plane from Van­u­atu. have been here for a week as­sist­ing Save the Chil­dren, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that has been work­ing in this Pa­cific na­tion for 25 years.

That means it knows its stuff, knows what’s needed in the wake of Cy­clone Pam and has the ut­most re­spect of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

We are in it for the long haul – long af­ter the TV crews have left and long af­ter many other agen­cies have flown out.

A com­mit­ted staff, many of whom have lost parts of their homes or have fam­ily mem­bers they can’t make con­tact with, have been work­ing around the clock to get to those who need help the most.

But it’s not an easy task. Van­u­atu is an ar­chi­pel­ago made up of 86 is­lands, 65 of them in­hab­ited.

Ev­ery­thing in the coun­try is im­ported. So re­ly­ing on planes that have to land on a dam­aged tar­mac is all that peo­ple can do as they wait for the wa­ter, food, wood, tools, chain­saws and count­less other items that are needed to rebuild Van­u­atu.

About 80 per cent of the agri­cul­ture is sub­sis­tence farm­ing and all the crops have been de­stroyed. Even if peo­ple man­age to get hold of seedlings for ba­nana plants, man­gos and man­ioc – the most popular crops – it’s go­ing to be up to six months be­fore they can be har­vested.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the storm surge dur­ing the cy­clone meant that many of the soils were de­stroyed by salt wa­ter.

A col­league, Sel­wyn, told me he lost his roof, but has enough food to sup­port him and his fam­ily for two weeks. Af­ter that, he won­ders how he will feed them.

An­nie, who has five grand­chil­dren stay­ing with her af­ter their home was de­stroyed, is in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, wor­ried about what her fam­ily will eat once the fruit that fell to the ground in the 275kmh winds has been eaten. In the mean­time, they rely on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to sup­port them with food, wa­ter and build­ing sup­plies to re­con­struct their homes.

And the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must con­tinue to sup­port Van­u­atu in the weeks and months ahead.

This is our Pa­cific neigh­bour, a three- hour flight from Auck­land, vis­ited by many New Zealand tourists seek­ing a Pa­cific is­land ex­pe­ri­ence. It has been truly dec­i­mated. Hence the mixed emo­tions.

I am in­cred­i­bly proud to be work­ing for Save the Chil­dren, which is do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to help the peo­ple of Van­u­atu, in the short and long term.

But I’m sad­dened that I will no longer have daily con­tact with the peo­ple who I came to care about. I will won­der how they are get­ting on.

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