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Cyclone Pam - one month on

One month after Cyclone Pam wreaked widespread devastation in Vanuatu, Red Cross has helped more than 20,000 people across 14 islands with emergency relief supplies.

Friday April 10, 2015

Photo: IFRC/Madeline Wilson
Vanuatu's resilient families have already stated to rebuild. Leilang Jimmy weaves a basket from palm fronds to collect debris from the cyclone. Photo: IFRC/Madeline Wilson

Cyclone Pam entered Vanuatu waters on 13 March as a Category Five storm. Winds at 250kph and violent storm surges destroyed homes across the country, leaving 65,000 people in need of shelter.  

The Australian community responded with compassion and generosity, raising over $6 million through Australian Red Cross to provide humanitarian support to Vanuatu and other Pacific nations affected by the cyclone.

Well before the cyclone hit, Vanuatu Red Cross was helping evacuate people to safe shelters and sending warnings by radio. In the immediate aftermath, it was the first aid agency to begin distributing relief supplies, in coordination with the Vanuatu Government.  

Working through 200 volunteers, Red Cross has provided emergency relief supplies to 20,000 people across 14 islands: from tarpaulins and basic tools to set up temporary shelters, to hygiene kits with toothpaste, soap and other essentials, to sleeping mats, blankets, solar lanterns and kitchen sets to help families cope.  

Water purification units have been set up to provide safe drinking water in Mele on Efate Island and in the northern part of Tanna Island. Meanwhile, 65 families have been reunited after they were separated during the cyclone.  

Similar efforts are underway in other Pacific nations impacted by Cyclone Pam, including Tuvalu, Kiribati and Solomon Islands.  

Jacqueline De Gaillande, CEO of Vanuatu Red Cross, explains that the next step is to support community recovery.  

"This will include helping people to build stronger houses, repairing community water sources and continuing to build on community resilience through health education, hygiene promotion and first aid training."  

The people of Vanuatu have shown their resilience, with many neighbours getting together to help each other rebuild their homes. Red Cross will support their work with training in weather-resistant construction techniques.  

Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross, says that preparing for future disasters remains essential. "We've seen the immense destruction caused by Cyclone Pam and, just after that, by Typhoon Maysak in Micronesia. We've also seen that early warnings from Red Cross and the local authorities in each country helped people prepare their homes as best they could, and evacuate to safe shelter. No doubt this saved lives.  

"We will keep working to ensure that communities have their own trained first responders and that people can better protect their homes, possessions and livelihoods."  

Find out how being prepared saved Fabrina's life during Cyclone Pam.