Emergency Relief Operations Scale Up in Response to Cyclone Pam

15 March, 2015
Credit: Australian Red Cross
Credit: Australian Red Cross
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International aid agencies have deployed emergency response teams to support relief efforts on the ground already assisting nations devastated by Tropical Cyclone Pam in the Pacific. The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team arrived in Port Vila today, with three personnel from OCHA’s Regional Office for the Pacific, to support the coordination of incoming humanitarian assistance.

At least nine nations have experienced some level of devastation including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea. Officials have yet to assess the damage in many of the hard-hit outer islands because communications and power remain cut.

Aerial assessments were conducted today by military aircraft from New Calendonia, Australia and New Zealand finding severe and widespread damage. Shefa, Tafea, Malampa and Penama are emerging as the worst impacted areas, although Shefa remains the only province declared an emergency. As of 16 March, the National Disaster Management Office confirmed 24 confirmed fatalities, 11 from Tafea, eight from Efate and five from Tanna. 3,300 people are sheltering in 37 evacuation centres in Torba and Penama Provinces, and the main island of Efate. Radio and telephone communication with outer islands is yet to be established. Commercial aircraft have resumed flights to Port Vila despite damage to the airport.

In Efate, an estimated 90 per cent of structures are damaged or destroyed. Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital.

For the latest information on the emergency response go to: Cyclone Pam Situation Report, No. 2.

Some identified initial needs:

  • Emergency food aid for an estimated 19,000 households, based on the path of the cyclone.
  • Initial agriculture damage estimates, from Port Vila, and aerial surveys of Tanna, Ambrym, Emae and Epi islands indicate significant losses to crops and livestock.
  • UNICEF reports that 28 schools in Efate and six in Torba and Penama are being used as evacuation centres. There is an estimated 70,000 school-aged children, from early childhood through secondary school, affected.
  • There is a need to set up temporary learning spaces as the majority of schools are expected to be affected – a high priority for both resumed learning but also to help with psycho-social healing and child protection.

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