With Felipe Le­mos

Peo­ple in Van­u­atu were track­ing the cy­clone for two weeks be­fore its ar­rival. dur­ing the tense week be­fore it hit, ev­ery­one was that it would just ‘move a lit­tle to the Three days be­fore the event, there was no much doubt. it was a Cat­e­gory 5 and it was

Island Life - - Out To Lunch -

am late when I ar­rive at Coco de Mar res­tau­rant to meet Felipe, our favourite den­tist. He is ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing his ten min­utes of time alone, at ‘his lo­cal res­tau­rant’. Lo­cated at Is­land Magic re­sort, on Devil’s Point Road, Coco de Mar is the place where he usu­ally goes with his fam­ily to en­joy some lovely food and great views of Mele Bay. Felipe first came to Van­u­atu in 2010 on a one-year con­tract as a den­tist.

“Af­ter five years work­ing in Aus­tralia, I was ready for a break and Van­u­atu sounded like a won­der­ful place to live and work for a year.”

In his short four years in the coun­try, he has ac­com­plished quite a feat, and all was un­planned.

Six months af­ter his ar­rival, Felipe meet his part­ner, Kylie. Twelve months later, he quit his job and to­gether with Kylie de­cided to start his own clinic. It was only three months later, in June 2012 that Novo­den­tal opened. “Not only did we need to find the right lo­ca­tion for the clinic but we also had to source ev­ery­thing from over­seas, both equip­ment and sup­pli­ers and we wanted the latest in den­tal tech­nol­ogy. It was a very busy and in­tense time.” In April 2013, less than a year later, Felipe and Kylie wel­comed Luca into the world, their first child.

Many of Novo­den­tal’s clients from Aus­tralia and New Zealand come to Van­u­atu specif­i­cally to have work done at the clinic.

Felipe and Novo­den­tal have per­formed dozens of full-mouth re­con­struc­tions.

He is orig­i­nally from Porto Ale­gre (the happy port!) in south Brazil.

He finds Van­u­atu to be very sim­i­lar to the north of Brazil where the cul­ture and land­scape are very much alike.

The only time he misses Brazil is in Fe­bru­ary. What he loves the most about Van­u­atu is the lifestyle.

It is the car­ni­val.

“I row three morn­ings a week be­fore go­ing to work. I have time to play with my child and to be with fam­ily and friends. There is a great sense of com­mu­nity and the land is beau­ti­ful. What else could you want?”

The three den­tists in the clinic are Brazil­ian but it was never meant to be that way.

“I was look­ing for an Aus­tralian to be our sur­geon and im­plant spe­cial­ist. I re­ceived an ap­pli­ca­tion from Dr. Mar­cel Cas­tro da Cruz. The ap­pli­ca­tion came with some great ref­er­ences. Mar­cel has stud­ied un­der Re­nato Quadrado, one of the best stu­dents of P.I. Brane­mark, in­ven­tor of the den­tal im­plants and fa­ther of mod­ern den­tistry. In the words of Re­nato Quadrado, Mar­cel is ‘a re­mark­able sur­geon’. He is now part of our team.”

His favourite place in Van­u­atu is the clinic.

“I am not jok­ing!” he says smil­ing. But when not at work, he loves to spend time around Ha­van­nah and the is­lands to the north of Pele and Nguna.

He can cook a great ‘Pi­canha’, a Brazil­ian BBQ where the meat keeps flow­ing

from the BBQ grill. His next favourite food is ‘Fei­joada’, a typ­i­cal Brazil­ian dish with black beans and meat. “I love it but I am not very good at cook­ing it!”

His son’s sec­ond name is An­ton, named af­ter his fa­ther and Kylie’s grand­fa­ther.

Renowned An­ton Breinl, Kylie’s grand­fa­ther, was a med­i­cal sci­en­tist fa­mous for his con­tri­bu­tion to the knowl­edge and treat­ment of trop­i­cal dis­eases.

Felipe and Novo­den­tal are big in giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.

Their mo­bile den­tal clinic has vol­un­teer den­tists com­ing from Aus­tralia and trav­els to vil­lages in re­mote ar­eas of Efate to per­form free den­tal treat­ment. Novo­den­tal’s mo­bile clinic fea­tured in the an­nual book of Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional. The clinic has re­ceived a lot of help from the Bal­larat Ro­tary Club, in Aus­tralia, and den­tist David Gold­smith. Felipe now plans to open the first den­tal lab­o­ra­tory in Van­u­atu that will be able to make den­tures freely avail­able to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion.

The con­ver­sa­tion was ev­ery­where. The Van­u­atu ‘mon­ster’ was com­ing and there was not a thing we could do about it ex­cept get ready. Amongst the ‘ex­pat’ cir­cle, par­ents were won­der­ing whether stay­ing in the coun­try with their chil­dren was the re­spon­si­ble thing to do. Con­ver­sa­tions in the su­per­mar­ket switched from the usual op­ti­mistic ‘it is just a bit of wind’ to the no longer avoid­able ques­tions. ‘What will we do if ev­ery­thing is de­stroyed? Will our life here be over? Will my house still be here the day af­ter?’ Within the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, with less ac­cess to online in­for­ma­tion, the fact that con­fu­sion reigned re­gard­ing its sever­ity only two days be­fore the ‘D-day’ was clear. Some peo­ple had heard that the cy­clone was not com­ing; it was ‘very far away’. Most peo­ple were not aware of its pre­dicted in­ten­sity or how close it would pass. The weather was calm and lovely on Thurs­day 12th but the ten­sion was pal­pa­ble. Trucks drove around town car­ry­ing 15mm ply­wood, trol­lies at the su­per­mar­ket were filled with boxes of wa­ter and can­dles. Be­ing such a huge sys­tem, no­body quite knew ex­actly when the worst of it would reach each dif­fer­ent is­land. Those who thought their homes were not safe packed up their houses as well as they could and with one last farewell, moved to a safer lo­ca­tion. Will you be here to­mor­row? Will I ever sleep in my bed again? Friends and fam­i­lies piled up in each other houses. There is noth­ing quite like feel­ing you may lose ev­ery­thing you have, and know­ing this in ad­vance. On the morn­ing of Fri­day 13th, the cy­clone was work­ing its way through the North­ern is­lands of Van­u­atu, where it did pass a lit­tle to the right. In Port Vila, the wind and the rain started to pick up slightly but at 3pm it was still noth­ing more than a rea­son­able size storm. Not know­ing how bad it would get, peo­ple were walk­ing around in the streets,

Pre­vi­ous page: The is­land of Makira was dev­as­tated by the cy­clone. Photo by Pa­tri­cia Gil. This page left: This woman and her grand­chil­dren walked more than ten kilo­me­tres from an emer­gency shel­ter back to their home near Teouma. Photo by Graham Crumb. Top right: Books are left to dry out­side Manua School (North Efate). Photo by Groovy Banana www.groovy-banana.com. Bot­tom right: A New Zealand Air Force Her­cules un­loads medicines from UNICEF stock­piles in Suva. Photo by Graham Crumb.

wait­ing for it to worsen be­fore seek­ing refuge. Text mes­sages from Dig­i­cel and TVL started to come in on the phones, in­form­ing the pop­u­la­tion on the alert level and prox­im­ity of the cy­clone. At 4pm, many peo­ple, my­self in­cluded, were think­ing, is this it? Be­cause this is re­ally not so bad at all. Af­ter spend­ing the last twelve days with my guts all wound up in a ball of anx­i­ety, the wait­ing was the worst. The day had fi­nally come, it was 6pm and was this all? It was from then on­wards that the cy­clone started to re­sem­ble the beast that it was to be­come. Not quite know­ing what to ex­pect, but hav­ing seen footage of Cat­e­gory 5 cy­clones, I thought I knew how bad it would be. Well, I was wrong. It was more in­tense than any­thing we could have ex­pected. At 11.30pm the trees were blow­ing side­ways. The wind was so strong that it no longer re­sem­bled

Aid is on its way

ndLeft: A board mem­ber of the Van­u­atu So­ci­ety for Dis­abled Peo­ple stands in the wreck­age of the So­ci­ety’s of­fices. Photo by Graham Crumb. Top right: Port Vila Har­bour. Photo by Pa­tri­cia Gil. Bot­tom right: Unelco team. Photo by Va­lerie Lebeau, Ig­me­dia.

Epi, three brave men stood on a barge, geared up in yel­low rain coats and div­ing gog­gles. ‘The rain was so heavy we could not see, so we put the gog­gles on to keep the rain and wind out of our eyes’. They spent the night on the barge, se­cur­ing the ropes against the cy­clone. There are 188,000 sto­ries of that night. On the night of Fri­day 13th, Cat­e­gory 5 Trop­i­cal Su­per-cy­clone Pam hit the Shefa Province and con­tin­ued its way south. 250km/hour winds with gusts of up to 320km were recorded in Efate and the Shep­herd Is­lands. The worse af­fected ar­eas were the is­lands of Efate, Tanna, Er­ro­mango, Epi, the Shep­herd Is­lands, Pamma and east Am­bryn. It is es­ti­mated that over 18,000 houses suf­fered dam­age or were de­stroyed. On the is­land of Tanna, 90% of houses were dam­aged or de­stroyed. In Er­ro­mango, Emae and the Shep­herd Is­lands, over 70% of houses were dam­aged. The cy­clone af­fected over 188,000 peo­ple, more than 82,000 of

‘Mack’ lost his en­tire house, “We kept mov­ing from room to room as each one col­lapsed un­til we ended up hol­ing up in the last room that was stand­ing,” he ex­plained. He ar­rived at Promed­i­cal on the Satur­day morn­ing ask­ing how he could help and for the next four days he car­ried wa­ter to Efate’s vil­lages and helped with the re­moval of de­bris, “I did not have a house to go back to so I stayed and helped,” he said. “I did not do any­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary, just what needed to be done,” he added. In the days af­ter the cy­clone, Promed­i­cal as­sem­bled a team of 150 vol­un­teers who called them­selves ‘Rene­gade Aid’ and tire­lessly dis­trib­uted wa­ter, food and med­i­cal aid around Efate. Promed­i­cal, be­ing a small-size lo­cal not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, was one of the fastest NGO’S to de­liver help to the vil­lages around the is­land. Work­ing to­gether with other lo­cal not-for-profit groups, such as Wan Smol­bag, they de­vised and co­or­di­nated the re­lief ef­fort. Dur­ing the fol­low­ing two months, Promed­i­cal de­liv­ered over 200,000 litres of wa­ter and 2.5 tons of food, as well as tarps, tools, build­ing ma­te­ri­als, fuel for chain­saws and emer­gency med­i­cal help. Much of it do­nated by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als and dis­trib­uted by vol­un­teers who con­trib­uted their time and ve­hi­cles to the ef­fort. A id started to fly in on the days af­ter the cy­clone and or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Ox­fam, Save the Chil­dren, Red Cross, Adra, Care In­ter­na­tional, Unicef and oth­ers as­sem­bled their emer­gency re­lief teams on the ground, bring­ing hun­dreds of dis­as­ter re­sponse ex­perts to co­or­di­nate their re­sponse. The NDMO (Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Of­fice) started work on the dam­age as­sess­ment and aid de­liv­ery plan across the coun­try. Meet­ings were held by the hour and groups tak­ing care of dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties were formed. Be­ing an is­land na­tion, the lo­gis­tics of aid de­liv­ery were com­plex. Air­ports, roads and wharfs in the outer is­lands were dam­aged, mak­ing de­liv­ery to some places vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Dur­ing the first weeks af­ter the cy­clone, the peo­ple in the outer is­lands waited. Although the re­sponse has been cri­tiqued as ‘slow’, the chal­lenges that the dis­tri­bu­tion pre­sented were many and the re­sponse and com­mit­ment of aid or­ga­ni­za­tions to Van­u­atu was sim­ply enor­mous. From March 20th to April 27th, over 151,774 tons of food and 70,261 tons of NFI (Non-food items) were de­liv­ered by aid or­ga­ni­za­tions through the NDMO to the af­fected ar­eas of Van­u­atu. Ac­cord­ing to the NDMO lo­gis­tics group, 7,287 tons were de­liv­ered to the Torba province, 22,134 tons to Pe­nama, 12,153 tons to Malampa, 35,439 tons to Shefa and 144,842 tons to Tafea province. Be­sides the de­liv­ery of food and wa­ter, or­ga­ni­za­tions took on their own projects, re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing wa­ter sup­plies and com­mu­nity in­fra­struc­ture such as schools and hos­pi­tals in af­fected ar­eas. Wells in South East Am­bryn and wa­ter sys­tems in Epau and Teoma bush were re­ha­bil­i­tated by Ox­fam; over 19,000 chil­dren were im­mu­nized against Measles and Rubella with the help of Unicef; the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment pro­vided a to­tal of AU$15 mil­lion in hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance dur­ing the re­cov­ery. Many in­di­vid­u­als or­ga­nized their own ‘Go fund me’ cam­paigns to look af­ter spe­cific com­mu­ni­ties. This is the case of David Gi­rardeau, from Techno Bois Deco who or­ga­nized a fundraiser to help his staff re­build their houses. David and lo­cal boat ‘Seren­ity’, also de­liv­ered thou­sands of litres of wa­ter and build­ing ma­te­ri­als to the is­land of Emae. The Ha­van­nah re­sort or­ga­nized its own fundraiser to help sur­round­ing vil­lages and the ex­pat com­mu­nity de­liv­ered food, wa­ter and ma­te­ri­als in their own boats to neigh­bor­ing is­lands such as Nguna and Pele. Many of the lo­cal yachts which sur­vived the cy­clone made them­selves avail­able to trans­port re­lief aid to the is­lands. The or­ga­ni­za­tion AC­TIV teamed up with Okeanus and pur­chased 2.5 tons of root crops from the AC­TIV farmer net­work in South West Bay, Malekula, to de­liver to the af­fected is­lands of Epi, Ton­gariki and Ton­goa. The sto­ries are many, and it is im­pos­si­ble to name all the in­di­vid­u­als who through their own fundrais­ers man­aged to bring in and dis­trib­ute hun­dreds of con­tain­ers of do­nated goods. In an ef­fort of huge sol­i­dar­ity, the whole coun­try came to­gether to reach out to the af­fected ar­eas.

When the lights came on

The cy­clone caused sub­stan­tial dam­age to power and wa­ter sup­plies, es­pe­cially in the is­lands of Efate and Tanna. The speedy re­sponse of the main elec­tric­ity provider, Unelco, can only be de­scribed as out­stand­ing. Two days af­ter the cy­clone all wa­ter was back on and elec­tric­ity was re­stored to hos­pi­tals, banks, fuel sta­tions, gov­ern­ment of­fices and main stores in the cap­i­tal. By March 18th, elec­tric­ity has been re­stored in down town Port Vila and a team of 35 ex­perts from New Cale­do­nia, Tahiti, Wal­lis and Fu­tuna were on the ground help­ing re­store power to the rest of the is­land. For the next two weeks, Unelco

tion and alert level. The fast restora­tion of net­works post-cy­clone en­sured that peo­ple in the af­fected is­lands were able to com­mu­ni­cate with rel­a­tives and ask for help if needed only days af­ter the cy­clone. Most of TVL’S net­work sur­vived the cy­clone in the cap­i­tal and by Mon­day March 16th, the Dig­i­cel net­work in the cap­i­tal was al­most fully re­stored. By March 19th, Dig­i­cel had re­stored 56% of its net­work in Van­u­atu and the main towns of Lenekal and Isan­gel in Tanna were op­er­a­tional by March 23rd. TVL net­works were re­stored in Efate by March 17th. The north­ern is­land net­work was mostly re­stored by March 22nd and the south­ern net­work was mostly re­stored by March 24th.

Plenty of Pina Co­ladas and no­body to drink them

re­sorts and restau­rants, but also the re­tail and food pro­duc­tion sec­tors. In the com­merce and in­dus­try sec­tor, which makes up ap­prox­i­mately 40% of Van­u­atu’s GDP, the to­tal dam­age caused by the cy­clone is es­ti­mated to be around VT976 mil­lion with losses of VT2.2 bil­lion.

Long time be­fore bananas

The in­dus­try most af­fected by the cy­clone has been with­out a doubt, agri­cul­ture. Un­like build­ings that can be re­paired in a few weeks or months, veg­etable gar­dens take months to re­cover, while cer­tain crops take up to four years. Agri­cul­ture pro­vides for 71% of in­come amongst the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion who de­rive their rev­enue through sales from their own veg­etable gar­dens and their work in the five main pro­duc­tion sec­tors of co­pra, kava, beef, cof­fee and co­coa. A Van­u­atu’s tourism in­dus­try was greatly ccord­ing to the FSAC im­pacted by the cy­clone. Tourism ac(Van­u­atu Food Se­cu­rity & counted for 33% of Van­u­atu’s GDP in Agri­cul­ture Clus­ter) Cy­clone 2010. The dam­age to the in­dus­try by Pam Medium and Long Term the cy­clone is es­ti­mated at around one Re­cov­ery and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Strat­egy bil­lion vatu. Iron­i­cally, it was not the 2015-2017, the dam­ages to the agri­cul­tural cy­clone it­self that had the great­est im­sec­tor were in ex­cess of VT1.4 bil­lion pact but the num­ber of can­cel­la­tions and in de­stroyed phys­i­cal as­sets and VT4.6 lack of book­ings in­curred post-cy­clone. bil­lion in losses cre­ated by dis­rup­tion in Although the coun­try was badly hit, the sup­ply. Agri­cul­ture was the most af­fected cy­clone did not cre­ate the same amount of the four sub-sec­tors, with 69% of los­sof dam­age across Van­u­atu. The is­land es and dam­ages. Per­ma­nent crops such as of Santo, for ex­am­ple, was vir­tu­ally kava, banana, co­conut, cof­fee and co­coa un­scathed and all tourist prop­er­ties were were the most af­fected. It is re­ported that up and run­ning the next day. Book­ing al­most half of the cat­tle, pig and chicken can­cel­la­tions were com­ing in fast to the pop­u­la­tions died in the most af­fected be­wil­der­ment of re­sorts’ man­agers who ar­eas. In Port Vila, com­mer­cial poul­try were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the beau­ti­ful sun­shine farms lost the ma­jor­ity of their chick­ens, and pris­tine Santo land­scape as per usual. num­ber­ing many thou­sands. I n Port Vila, it only took a few weeks In terms of food se­cu­rity and agri­cul­ture, for prop­er­ties to clean, clear and Tanna, Er­ro­mango and the Shep­herd re­build and less than a month later, Is­lands were the worst af­fected by the 95% of re­sorts, ho­tels and prop­er­ties cy­clone. The FSAC found that the Shep­were op­er­at­ing as nor­mal. By the end of herd Is­lands suf­fered a 100% dam­age loss April, the green had come back to the with a very low level of ac­cess to food is­land of Efate, the mar­kets were back and re­cov­ery po­ten­tial of crops. Tanna open, and the sun was shin­ing. The loss was one of the hard­est hit is­lands in the to the in­dus­try in rev­enue amounts to Tafea province, with no op­por­tu­ni­ties mil­lions of dol­lars, at a time when the for the pop­u­la­tion to con­duct any cash­coun­try needs the in­come the most and gen­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. A huge per­cent­age has been, un­for­tu­nately un­de­served. Acof Tanna’s pop­u­la­tion de­pends on kava cord­ing to Van­u­atu’s Gov­ern­ment ‘Po­stand cof­fee pro­duc­tion for their in­come; Dis­as­ter Needs As­sess­ment’ re­leased both in­dus­tries were hit heav­ily by the in May, the losses to the in­dus­try un­til cy­clone. Tanna Cof­fee is the main cofAu­gust are es­ti­mated to be over VT3.6 fee pro­ducer in the coun­try, procur­ing bil­lion. The spillover ef­fect of a lack of cof­fee beans from over 500 small-holder visi­tors af­fected not only the coun­try’s farm­ers on the is­land. “There are around 5,000 peo­ple in­volved in the lo­cal in­dus­try and with the ex­pected 100 ton crop this year, it would have meant that al­most 40 mil­lion vatu would have been paid di­rectly to the farm­ers,” ex­plains Terry Adling­ton, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Tanna Cof­fee. “There will be no fur­ther raw cof­fee pro­duc­tion for at least another eigh­teen months and it will be at least four years be­fore we are likely to re­turn to the pre-cy­clone po­si­tion of 100t pa.” Terry es­ti­mates losses in terms of raw pro­duc­tion to be over 125 mil­lion vatu. “The main pri­or­i­ties are to as­sist in clear­ing and prun­ing the es­ti­mated 600,000 cof­fee trees that were dam­aged dur­ing the cy­clone and to re­pair and re­place the 45 de­cen­tral­ized raw cof­fee pro­cess­ing cen­tres that were badly dam­aged. Another im­por­tant area is to as­sist and en­cour­age small-holder farm­ers to di­ver­sify their crops, with an em­pha­sis on grow­ing, pro­cess­ing and mar­ket­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles as an al­ter­na­tive quick­re­turn crop,” ex­plained Terry. The kava in­dus­try was also badly af­fected, suf­fer­ing its big­gest loses in South East Pen­te­cost and the is­lands of Am­brym and Epi. “It is hard to say how long it will take to re­cover. Sup­ply from the af­fected ar­eas has been al­most twice as nor­mal in April, as farm­ers har­vested the ma­ture plants that were dam­aged be­fore they rot. But those plants should have been har­vested at a later time of the year, when there will be a big short­age. Young plan­ta­tions of one year of age have been com­pletely de­stroyed in cer­tain ar­eas, and that means that in three years time we will have a pe­riod with lower pro­duc­tion,” ex­plains Michael Louze, ex­porter and chair­man of the Kava In­dus­try Group.

The next six months

Three months af­ter the event, the coun­try has en­tered the next stage in the re­cov­ery process. Re­lief ef­forts have shifted from de­liv­er­ing im­me­di­ate items of need such as food and wa­ter, to re­build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture needed for com­mu­ni­ties to be once again self-suf­fi­cient. Far from the worst be­ing over, the Sec­ond Phase Har­mo­nized As­sess­ment re­port con­ducted by the Van­u­atu Gov­ern­ment in May, pre­dicted the sit­u­a­tion would worsen dur­ing May and June for 50% of com­mu­ni­ties in Shefa and Tafea prov­inces.

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