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Red Cross aid to Vanuatu

Thank you - we're so grateful for your help.

A swath of destruction

  • 11 people lost their lives
  • 66,000 people lost their homes
  • 188,000 people across 22 islands affected

Cyclone Pam left a swath of devastation in its wake, destroying or damaging up to 90% of homes in some islands. Well before cyclone season began, Vanuatu Red Cross was helping families to prepare. As the cyclone approached, Red Cross volunteers worked with local authorities to evacuate people to safety. In the aftermath, Red Cross was the first organisation to distribute relief supplies.

Generous Australian donors gave more than $6 million to the Cyclone Pam 2015 Appeal. This is how their donations helped people recover and rebuild.

Back to school in Buninga

Hannah, right, is back to school under a new, cyclone-resistant roof. It's a sign of better things to come for the community of Buninga.

Cyclone Pam destroyed all but seven homes on the remote island of Buninga.

Eight-year-old Hannah and her brother Jemis took shelter in their grandmother's house, which survived only because Jemis was nailing down the walls while the storm raged outside. Their own parents' home was not so lucky. "We came outside and saw our house fall down and then some of us cried and then we started to make our house again," Jemis says.

The cyclone also tore the roof off Hannah's school.

Red Cross has been helping this resilient community to rebuild: first by providing tarpaulins and tools so families could create temporary shelters, and then by training people in cyclone-resistant building techniques.

"Cyclone Pam taught us that we need to construct in a more durable manner," explains Australian aid worker Robbie Dodds, who led the rebuilding project, starting with Buninga's school.

Jemis, 20, quickly volunteered to rebuild his sister's school. "I wanted to learn new skills and use them to rebuild my home," he explains.

Hannah is now back at school under a new roof, while Jemis and his friends have started to rebuild other houses. It's a new start for a community that lost almost everything.

"Life has come good a little bit, but it's still not the same since Cyclone Pam. It's a bit busier and harder. But the community is still happy," says Jemis with pride.

People from across the Buninga community pitched in to rebuild their school, learning new contrcution techniques along the way. Australian aid worker Robbie Dodds led the "build back safer" construction project in Buninga.

Making life just a little easier

Having lost a leg in an industrial accident in his youth, Karie Manaruru felt the task of rebuilding his home was nearly impossible.

Fortunately, his family rallied to help out, using tools provided by Red Cross. Karie, like more than 40,000 others in Vanuatu, also received critical relief items such as

a kitchen set, shelter kit and solar light.

The next challenge was water. "It's hard to do things like work in the garden, or collect water from the well," Karie says

"I can't walk very far on these crutches and when it's raining it gets very slippery and I often fall over."

Red Cross installed a 1,100-litre water tank and rainwater system at Karie's house, close enough that he no longer relies on his family to collect his water.

"These are needs that I will have for my entire life. Thank you very much Red Cross, for everything you've done," he says with a smile.

The volunteers of Tanna Island

Tanna Island bore the brunt of Cyclone Pam, but Red Cross volunteers worked hard to help their neighbours cope.

Sabrina Wako
"After Pam, Red Cross said they needed volunteers and I said, sure I can come! So I spent the day packing things Red Cross sent over. "We filled in assessment forms about what things people needed. Then we did some distributions in North Tanna. People there were very happy. "Maybe we helped plenty of them out there. It's a good thing."

Jonathan David
"Vanuatu Red Cross was the first organisation to respond to our community. We received tarps, shelter toolkits and food. "During my volunteer deployment with Red Cross I learned a lot of ideas on how to rebuild a stronger house that can resist a cyclone. "I would like to say a big thank-you to all Red Cross donors and supporters from overseas, for all the help they have sent us."

Disaster recovery is thirsty work

When Australian aid worker Gordon Ewers arrived on the island of Ambrym, he asked five young sisters how they were getting water. It turned out they were walking two kilometres to find a coastal spring, digging water out of holes in the ground, and hauling it home in 20-litre containers.

"It was an amazing feat of endurance and they didn't think anything of it," he reports.

Gordon helped repair rainwater storage tanks that had been destroyed in the cyclone, in particular by replacing the thatched roofs over these tanks with galvanised iron. This has the dual effect of collecting more water when it rains, and preventing its loss through evaporation.

Water systems were also damaged on Paama Island, leaving people facing serious water shortages as hot and dry conditions set in.

"The shortage of water and healthy food caused an outbreak of diarrhoea with plenty of kids losing weight, especially babies," says Billy Tasso, who works at Liro Health Centre on Paama.

"But Red Cross distributed three water tanks, spouts and an iron roof to replace the damaged one. I am very glad with the help Red Cross has given us."

"If only there was rain for two to three days, then people would be happy because now they have tanks to store the water!"

Please support our ongoing work

We can't stop disasters from coming but we CAN take steps to protect lives and livelihoods.

Please donate to our disaster relief and recovery work. You'll help provide valuable support to our emergency services staff and volunteers as they prepare, respond and provide support to communities during and after disasters. You will know your donation has made an important contribution to our work whenever you see a Red Cross Emergency Services team in action.