Re­build­ing Van­u­atu

Island Life - - Out To Lunch -

wind but some sort of beast, thick and vis­i­ble, bat­tling with the force of a mil­lion horses. Rain was bub­bling un­der the win­dows, climb­ing up the glass in­stead of down it.

At 11.30pm, in the vil­lage of Mele, Ben Silva was bat­tling the wind, stand­ing out­side on top of his roof were he would spend most of the night, ham­mer­ing back bits of cor­ru­gated iron as they came lose. On the ex­posed, small is­land of Makira, peo­ple were seek­ing shel­ter in the five build­ings that were left stand­ing. Par­ents held doors and win­dows shut while chil­dren hud­dled in a cor­ner. At The Grand Ho­tel, Thomas Mas­son, food and bev­er­age man­ager, with dozens of the staff who had sought refuge at the Grand, were buck­et­ing wa­ter out of the lower floors while a group of Croa­t­ian foot­ballers were help­ing and laugh­ing,

In the cap­i­tal, peo­ple were on the move, try­ing to reach their houses, fam­ily and friends; dazed and con­fused, we searched for clear paths amongst the de­struc­tion. Up by the Har­bour, a car slows down and the driver low­ers his win­dow. “Have you seen my boat? I can’t find my boat?” the con­fused face with be­wil­dered eyes asked. “Your boat is gone mate, they are all gone, I am sorry,” was the re­sponse. Of the hun­dreds of boats moored in Port Vila Har­bour, only a hand­ful sur­vived. By 11am chain­saws ev­ery­where started to buzz, ev­ery­body al­ready on the job, try­ing to wipe the cy­clone off their front doors.

Promed­i­cal had al­ready man­aged to as­sem­ble a team of 30 vol­un­teers and were busy clear­ing the road to the air­port in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the first aid planes to land. Some of the re­mark­able peo­ple who were there from day one had them­selves lost ev­ery­thing in the cy­clone. Long term Port Vila res­i­dent, Shaun Mcna­mara

Pre­vi­ous page:

Promed­i­cal team mem­ber fills wa­ter con­tain­ers to be dis­trib­uted around Efate. Photo by Groovy Banana This page top left: Port Vila har­bour. Photo by Pa­tri­cia Gil. Bot­tom Left: Belle­vue area in Port Vila was hit hard by the cy­clone. Photo by Pa­tri­cia Gil. Right: Makira res­i­dents rush to the beach to re­trieve fresh wa­ter. Jerome Brant’s boat Seren­ity car­ried over 3,000 litres of wa­ter from Save The Chil­dren to Makira is­land. Photo by Pa­tri­cia Gil.

ad­vanced steadily, restor­ing elec­tric­ity to all ar­eas of Efate, neigh­bor­hood by neigh­bor­hood. By April 3rd, 96% of elec­tric­ity had been re­stored in Efate and the Unelco team moved on to Tanna. In Port Vila alone, there were over 1,500

Ac­cord­ing to Van­u­atu Gov­ern­ment Post-dis­as­ter Needs As­sess­ment, the to­tal eco­nomic value of the ef­fect of the cy­clone was es­ti­mated to be around VT42 bil­lion. To give an in­di­ca­tion of the mas­sive scale of the dam­age, this is equiv­a­lent to 47% of Van­u­atu’s GDP. It is also likely that losses are ac­tu­ally much higher than the given fig­ure, due to the dif­fi­cul­ties col­lect­ing data; the as­sess­ment was based on the best avail­able in­for­ma­tion. For the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, re­cov­ery needs are es­ti­mated to be around VT1.9 bil­lion. It will take un­til the end of the year for weav­ing hand­i­crafts to be re­stored, another three months for veg­etable and fruit sales to be re­stored, one year for co­pra and co­coa to be re­stored and up to four years for kava to be fully re­stored. Veg­etable sales, kava, weav­ing and co­pra are the big­gest cash-gen­er­at­ing strate­gies for ru­ral peo­ple in Van­u­atu. Ac­cord­ing to the Post-dis­as­ter Needs As­sess­ment, short term pri­or­i­ties in­clude the dis­tri­bu­tion of seeds, an­i­mal feed, plant­ing ma­te­ri­als, tools and equip­ment, and pro­vid­ing ac­cess to vet­eri­nary prod­ucts and help with land clear­ing. The es­ti­mated cost of re­cov­ery for the tourism sec­tor was set at VT2 bil­lion. The as­sess­ment es­tab­lished the need to in­crease Van­u­atu’s cur­rent mar­ket­ing bud­get of VT159 mil­lion per year to VT477 mil­lion dur­ing 2015 and 2016. In the health sec­tor, the to­tal ef­fect of Cy­clone Pam was ap­praised to be VT976.7 mil­lion in dam­ages and losses. 39 health fa­cil­i­ties were dam­aged, com­pris­ing two hos­pi­tals, fif­teen health cen­tres and 22 dis­pen­saries. The short-term Re­cov­ery Strat­egy cost to the Min­istry of Health’s in­fra­struc­ture, cov­er­ing the next twelve months, has been cal­cu­lated at VT 566.8 mil­lion. T he dam­age and losses in­curred by the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor are a to­tal VT4 mil­lion, with Tafea province sus­tain­ing the high­est dam­age. Dam­ages to the trans­port sec­tor, in­clud­ing in­fra­struc­ture such as roads and bridges, are over VT3 bil­lion, Shefa be­ing the most af­fected province. The cy­clone af­fected the liveli­hoods of over 40,000 house­holds, lim­it­ing their ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate in­come and re­sult- ing in losses of VT702 bil­lion in per­sonal in­come. Thou­sands of houses and busi­ness were dam­aged, and ev­ery one of them will need to be re­paired or re­built in the com­ing months so avail­abil­ity of ma­te­ri­als and builders is a source of con­cern. Main hard­ware out­lets ran out of gen­er­a­tors the day af­ter the cy­clone and only a few days later, chain­saws and other clear­ing equip­ment was run­ning low. “The gen­er­a­tors were the first to go and later, it was gar­den­ing equip­ment, tar­pau­lins and jerry cans that peo­ple needed the most. It was hard work for us, to be able to keep up with the sup­ply, but our staff worked very hard to get what was needed as fast as pos­si­ble,” ex­plained Nazario Fi­akai­fonu from Port Vila Hard­ware. “We are con­fi­dent that we will be able to meet the de­mand for ma­te­ri­als and tools and we have in­creased our or­der­ing to meet the de­mand.” Builders and trades­men have been swamped with work, re­quir­ing ex­tra help from over­seas to be able to tackle the work load. “Since the cy­clone, we have dou­bled our team from 40 to 80 staff as well as bring­ing in over­seas builders to help us meet the de­mand,” ex­plains Ryan Foots, di­rec­tor of build­ing com­pany Van­corp. “We have given over 100 quo­ta­tions and are work­ing on 25 dif­fer­ent projects at the mo­ment, all cy­clone re­lated. All sup­pli­ers have been work­ing very hard as well to be able to meet the de­mand and are do­ing a great job at mak­ing sure that we have what is needed to re­build the coun­try,” Ryan added. Adam Cham­ber­lain, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Switched-on, is also con­fi­dent that the coun­try will be able to cope with the de­mand for trades­men and ma­te­ri­als. “Ini­tially our main ob­jec­tive was to en­sure our cus­tomers and res­i­dents of Port Vila were not in dan­ger from any dam­age caused by the cy­clone. We helped Unelco to re­con­nect power; this was a mas­sive un­der­tak­ing and Unelco did a fan­tas­tic job co­or­di­nat­ing the re­pair works to en­sure peo­ple had elec­tric­ity sup­ply as soon as pos­si­ble. It was a ma­jor ef­fort with our staff work­ing twelve hours a day; we are very lucky to have a great team. Now we are work­ing on re­pairs to busi­ness and pri­vate houses. No doubt this will be a huge task but I am sure all the trades com­pa­nies in Van­u­atu are ready for it.” There were count­less busi­ness in Van­u­atu who worked many stress­ful long days af­ter the cy­clone and it was a re­mark­able ef­fort from all the staff, many of whom had lost ev­ery­thing dur­ing the cy­clone, yet showed up to work the next day and for the fol­low­ing weeks, worked hard long hours to do what needed to be done. Trades­men and sup­pli­ers still have a long road ahead to re­build the coun­try but although ma­te­ri­als and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise will be avail­able, it is money that is miss­ing. With losses in the bil­lions, the money the coun­try needs to re­build will need to be ac­quired from donors and if given as loans, Van­u­atu will have a debt that will hold back its econ­omy for decades. P ost-cy­clone, two main themes for con­sid­er­a­tion have emerged when look­ing to the fu­ture. ‘Build­ing back bet­ter’ is on ev­ery­one’s mind, with an em­pha­sis on build­ing stronger, cy­clone-proof struc­tures, es­pe­cially public build­ings such as schools, shel­ters and hos­pi­tals. In the hous­ing sec­tor, the medium to long term re­cov­ery needs iden­ti­fied by the gov­ern­ment are; to en­sure that com­mu­ni­ties have the tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to build safer, to en­sure that wa­ter needs are met when re­build­ing com­mu­ni­ties, a re­vi­sion of build­ing stan­dards, the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of lo­ca­tions and struc­tures suit­able for safe evac­u­a­tion sites, a multi-haz­ard map­ping of ur­ban ar­eas and ac­tion plan iden­ti­fy­ing safe ar­eas for fu­ture growth, and the adop­tion of a na­tional hous­ing pol­icy. The sec­ond theme is the clear need for diver­si­fi­ca­tion of crops and grow­ing lo­ca­tions, with an em­pha­sis on hav­ing a larger va­ri­ety of crops in ev­ery is­land and more cy­clone and cli­mate change re­sis­tant crops. A lthough the sun is shin­ing, peo­ple are, as al­ways, still smil­ing and Van­u­atu is as beau­ti­ful as ever, the coun­try has a long road ahead to its full re­cov­ery. We can only hope that those in charge are able to make the right and wise de­ci­sions that will build a bet­ter, more pros­per­ous and eq­ui­table na­tion.

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