Cyclone Pam

Two weeks after Cyclone Pam, aid donations are far below needs

Winnie Joe (left), a teacher, helping to clean up a damaged school in Epike village, Elate island. The kitchen (right) in her house was destroyed after Cyclone Pam hit. Photos: Habitat for Humanity/Geno Teofilo.

Port Vila (March 28, 2015) – Two weeks after Cyclone Pam devastated the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, communities and families who lost their homes are struggling to rebuild. Although media coverage has declined, Vanuatu is still in a state of emergency. 75,000 people are in need of shelter from damage inflicted by the massive storm, according to the United Nations.

“While the people of Vanuatu pray for more aid to arrive, they are not just waiting helplessly for help that may never come,” said Rick Hathaway, Habitat for Humanity Vice President for Asia-Pacific. “Since Cyclone Pam’s winds abated, they immediately picked themselves up and set to work, cleaning up their communities as best they can. Debris has been removed from ruined schools, schoolbooks salvaged, and roads cleared of large trees, using only axes. They have gathered up the remaining food in communities, and shared it equally.”

Humanitarian agencies are in-country responding to the disaster, but donations for aid have been far less than expected. International funding from government agencies has fallen short, leaving less funding for recovery. This is coupled with logistical challenges that delay aid from reaching hardest hit communities, many in remote areas.

Ruined houses have also become a resource for recovery. In many cases where Cyclone Pam destroyed a house in a village, the ruined house has been used for materials to rebuild a neighbor’s house that was damaged.

“Communities must not only be consulted, they should participate in every step of the rebuilding process,” said Rick Hathaway. “The role of aid agencies should be to supplement what the people of Vanuatu are already doing. They should support their efforts at self-recovery, provide technical assistance on how to repair and rebuild their homes, and procure materials from local markets to stimulate the local economy.”

Habitat for Humanity has disaster response staff deployed in Vanuatu to support ongoing assessments, and to assist with the coordination of humanitarian organizations providing shelter. Habitat for Humanity plans to implement shelter initiatives to bolster the self-recovery activities of families that are rebuilding after the devastation left by Cyclone Pam.