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Corona Virus vs Cyclone – a double whammy

Here’s a little known fact.  Vanuatu, the island nation made up of an 83 island archipelago is considered to be the world’s most at-risk country for natural hazards, according to a United Nations University World RiskIndex.   The list includes storms, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami.

While the rest of the world is struggling with the seemingly hourly changes due to COVID19 so too is the small island nation of Vanuatu.  

Double Whammy

As if Mother Nature is wanting to have the last word (she usually does), bring on #TCHarold (Tropical Cyclone Harold).   Harold intensified as he moved from our Melanesian neighbours, Solomons Islands where severe damage occurred and sadly, loss of life on a sailing ferry, from which many people are still missing.  Harold was increasing his impact as he slowly moved towards Vanuatu.

Harold made landfall on Sunday 6th April 2020, he was labelled Category 5.   That is the maximum rating of cyclones.   Winds were estimated at 215 kilometres per hour with gusts up to  235 kilometres per hour.   The previous couple of days had brought extreme rains, resulting in flooding, to the northern islands of the Torres group in the TORBA Province.

As I write, we eagerly await reports from aerial surveillance.   I understand there are reportedly up to 100,000 people who will have had been impacted in some way – across many of the central northern islands including Santo, Aore, Malo, Pentecost, Malekula and Epi and the TORBA Province.

Photo Credit: Pax Leo – aerial photograph of damage during TCHarold

How to manage this recovery?

Mammas Laef Vanuatu, were at the tail end of a large order of reusable menstrual pads to be sent to Tanna Island later this year.   We’ve diverted most of the team to another large order – this time for reusable / washable 3 layer protective face masks – in preparations for COVID19.   Now we are rapidly moving on that order, engaging more women from our community to help out. Continually fulfilling our Vision to “Support women to take control of their future”.

Usually Vanuatu is well supported by neighbouring developed countries who would usually send vast loads of aid at a time when their Pacific neighbours need help.  I acknowledge and people understand, that those countries are hurting so badly because of COVID19, their resources will be diminished.   In addition to that, many valuable personnel from international aid groups and businesses had already left Vanuatu a few weeks ago during COVID19 preparations before international flights ceased to operate.   It is a dilemma for this recovery.   

What I have observed already, is that there is a clear pathway which the Vanuatu government is positively leading with key stakeholders, to ensure the RIGHT aid and supports are provided.   Official organisations are reaching out and asking for groups like Mamma’s Laef to register their skill sets and resources.   We have registered our availability. We are on the ground.  We have capacity and resources. We are local – a business with a social enterprise basis.

Yes, we have quite a few supply chain issues to address, out of China, USA and New Zealand, but we have been adept so far, in making things happen – it must happen.

How do we get through?

Ni Vanuatu are resilient people.

Communities in the islands which haven’t been impacted will rally and ensure produce and practical help is sent north.   Air Vanuatu have just announced that they will resume domestic flights (which were suspended due to COVID19).  

Our team is in Vanuatu in all weathers – literally and figuratively.   At the end of the day, life goes on.   We must respond.  There is no choice.

This situation emphasises to me how vital it is that supports be given (prior to disaster) to locally based businesses/ organisations who have the ability to respond immediately.

At a time when disposable finances for so many people is an unknown quantity, it is difficult to me to mention this.  However, if you do wish to support Mammas Laef Vanuatu, and the work we are doing in Vanuatu – you can donate to the Charitable Trust in New Zealand, via our Give A Little Page.  All donations go directly to supporting ni Vanuatu.  If your donation is specifically for the #TCHarold relief, please make a comment on your donation.   Thank you.

Kia Kaha Vanuatu

Mi lukim yu


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