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Cyclone Pam wreaks horror in our region

The most vulnerable people in our region need support more than ever. Thank you for not just helping to pick up the pieces when disaster recently struck Vanuatu, but also for safeguarding the community from emergencies yet to come.

Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers and staff work tirelessly to support families in need following the devastating Cyclone Pam, which struck Vanuatu on 13 March 2015.

by Peter Walton, Head of International Programs, Australian Red Cross

It's been a brutal time for Vanuatu and Tuvalu, just as it has for remote Australian communities while an incredible four cyclones caused havoc in our backyard.

With each hour, we learned more about the horror Cyclone Pam wreaked in Vanuatu only weeks ago. More than 100,000 lives were shattered, and people urgently needed food, safe water, shelter and basic necessities. In the country's outer islands, which in many places bore the full brunt of the ferocious Category Five storm, the situation is still bleak.

From the northern tip to the far south of the country, people were left without homes and livelihoods. Assessments from Tanna Island and Shepherd Islands indicate near-total destruction of homes, schools, buildings and crops.

People living in remote Pacific Islands rely largely on subsistence farming for survival. Cyclones like Pam ruin the crops that feed people and destroy infrastructure that has taken years to build. Most frightening of all, with many airstrips still inaccessible, injured and sick people have no way to get professional medical help until rescue planes or boats arrive.

Thanks to your ongoing support, Red Cross was at work well before the cyclone struck, getting as many people as possible safely into evacuation centres and sending radio warnings to provinces outside the capital. And we've been working tirelessly ever since: providing first aid to the injured; distributing water, blankets and tarpaulins for shelter; and comforting terrified and grieving families. On the outer islands, Red Cross volunteers with first aid training are some of the only medical help available right now.

Your support has helped provide safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, preventing diseases from spreading. It has also ensured families have blankets and other essentials and provided emergency shelter from the ongoing rain and wind. Just as important as anything else, your generosity will help people protect themselves from the next cyclone. Thank you.

Photo: ICRC