Responding to Cyclone Pam's Impact on Vanuatu

Category 5 Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu late on Friday, March 13, and moved over the island group through Saturday, March 14, leaving severe destruction in its path. 

Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the provincial office of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) in Honiara, Solomon Islands, where damage has been reported in the Diocese of Temotu.  ACOM staff are in contact with the chaplain at the local office in Port-Vila, Vanuatu, and await further information about the status of the outer islands where damage is expected to be more severe.


July 7, 2015

The Anglican Alliance has posted an update on the Anglican Church of Melanesia's response to Cyclone Pam.

"In the four months since Tropical Cyclone Pam left a trail of destruction across the Vanuatu archipelago, the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM) has been bringing emergency assistance to remote island communities – and encountering stories of resilience and rebuilding in the process."

Read more


web-statement-badge-1April 2, 2015

To coordinate the local response to Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands on March 13, the Anglican Church of Melanesia-Vanuatu (ACOM-V) has convened a Disaster Committee chaired by The Rt. Rev. James Ligo of the Diocese of Vanuatu and co-chaired by Joses Togase, ACOM-V's Deputy General Secretary.  
 
The Disaster Committee is charged with developing and overseeing the Church's storm response and coordinating with the National Disaster Management Office, maximizing the impact of ACOM-V's resources by providing services not already covered by government or other agencies.
 
"The Church's presence in very remote areas is an asset both to those communities and to the government and international agencies working on the storm response," said Nagulan Nesiah, Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction.  "One of the most affected areas on the remote island of Pentecost was assessed by an ACOM priest who walked a full day and back to visit the area.  Church networks such as the Mothers' Union and Parish Wardens have been vitally important in aiding ACOM's own planning and in contributing accurate information to the NDMO for coordination."
 
The Anglican Alliance convened a call on March 31 with ACOM-Solomon Islands and ACOM-Vanuatu, as well as international partners such as Episcopal Relief & Development and Anglican Board of Mission-Australia (ABM), to discuss the response and coordinate support.  The short-term relief phase will bring food and water purification kits to communities in the provinces of Penama and Torba, east and north of the large island of Espiritu Santo, respectively.  ACOM will work with the NDMO, which is also liaising with the World Food Program and other agencies, using government transportation vessels where possible.
 
Medium- and long-term plans may include working with the government's department of agriculture to provide seeds and equipment to restore crop production, and installing rain-water tanks and sanitary toilets to ensure health and protect the environment.  Clergy will provide counseling and psychosocial support throughout the rebuilding and recovery process.
 
"ACOM staff and clergy are extremely committed to the well-being of their communities, and it is our aim to support that with helpful tools and technical assistance," Nesiah said.  "Just before the storm, we had been discussing with them the 'Pastors and Disasters' toolkit, which not only guides churches toward how they can best help those in need following a disaster, but also equips them to ensure that their new structures and systems will be disaster resistant.  Our prayers and support will accompany them as they rebuild and recover."
 
Episcopal Relief & Development offers prayer resources for solidarity with those who are responding to and recovering from disaster.  To support disaster response where it is most needed, please donate to the Disaster Response Fund.
 

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.


March 31, 2015

Direct communication has been restored with the Vanuatu office of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM-V).  Replying to Episcopal Relief & Development's emails of prayer and support, ACOM-V reports that every staff member has personal stories of loss and family being affected by Cyclone Pam.

Here are two personal accounts about the storm and its aftermath:


web-statement-badge-1March 24, 2015

According to the March 23 UN OCHA situation report on Vanuatu, nearly two-thirds of the nation's people (approximately 166,000, including 82,000 children) are estimated to have been affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam.  Across 22 islands, around 75,000 people are in need of shelter and 110,000 people are without access to clean drinking water.  Food assistance has reached approximately 120,000 people.

"The reports we are receiving from ACOM [the Anglican Church of Melanesia] and our partners confirm our fears, that the damage in Vanuatu's outlying islands is extensive and the need for food, shelter and drinking water is acute," said Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development's Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction.  "People have lost their crops, animals and livelihoods, so the emergency response must also set a foundation for long-term recovery, with attention to reducing risk and building resilience.  I am grateful for the work of our partners at ACOM, who care deeply about the communities that were affected and are working ecumenically with other local groups to coordinate an effective and speedy response."

Limited communication has been restored between the ACOM provincial office in Honiara, Solomon Islands, and local offices in Vanuatu.  ACOM is collaborating with the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and using its resources to send survey teams via boat to areas that were not reached during earlier assessments.  Some commercial air travel has resumed, but storm debris, fuel supplies and the availability of storage and accessible distribution points are limiting factors in the relief effort.

Initial reports indicate minimal damage to ACOM institutions, since the Anglican presence is concentrated in the northern and north-central islands of Vanuatu.  Some ACOM-Vanuatu staff were stranded in Sola, in northern Vanuatu, following the storm, and are returning to the national office in Luganville. 

ACOM-Honiara is focusing its local response efforts on islands in the Diocese of Temotu, in collaboration with the Solomon Islands NDMO, and leading coordination on the Vanuatu response while ACOM-Vanuatu office operations are being restored.

Episcopal Relief & Development offers prayer resources for solidarity with those who are responding to and recovering from disaster.  To support disaster response where it is most needed, please donate to the Disaster Response Fund.
 

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.


web-statement-badge-1March 19, 2015

Food and drinking water are among the top needs in Vanuatu, almost one week after Cyclone Pam blasted the archipelago with sustained winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.  Over 3,000 people remain displaced from their homes, sheltering in 36 evacuation centers on the main island of Efate.  Following assessments, the United Nations revised the death toll to 11 from the previously reported higher count of 24, though information from many of the outer islands is still forthcoming.
 
Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the provincial office of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) in Honiara, Solomon Islands, where damage has been reported in the Diocese of Temotu.  ACOM staff are in contact with the chaplain at the local office in Port-Vila, Vanuatu, though communication with the outer islands that were more heavily impacted has not yet been successful.  ACOM also has a national office in Luganville, on the larger island of Espirito Santo.
 
According to Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development's Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction, the ACOM Disaster Committee based in Honiara met twice and attended an NGO cluster meeting this past week for response coordination in the Solomon Islands.  The cluster is organizing a boat to visit the affected islands in the Diocese of Temotu to deliver aid (including supplies and disaster response funds) and to carry out an assessment.
 
In addition, ACOM's provincial ship, the Southern Cross, will be utilized to provide relief assistance to impacted areas in both the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu over the coming weeks.
 
"Episcopal Relief & Development will work closely with Anglican Board of Mission-Australia and the Anglican Alliance on a coordinated response to the suffering and damage from Cyclone Pam," Nesiah said.  "The loss of crops and livestock is a great concern to these communities that are used to being self-sufficient, since it is a challenge to travel between islands during normal times and it will only be more difficult with what we anticipate is severe damage to docks and roads.  Disaster recovery that integrates risk reduction and resilience will be vitally important in ensuring the long-term security of these communities."
 
Episcopal Relief & Development offers prayer resources for solidarity with those who are responding to and recovering from disaster.  To support disaster response where it is most needed, please donate to the Disaster Response Fund.
 

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.


web-statement-badge-1March 17, 2015

Category 5 Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu late on Friday, March 13, and moved over the island group through Saturday, March 14, leaving severe destruction in its path.

According to UN OCHA, Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands, and around 47,000 people live in the capital, Port-Vila. The report states that as of March 16, the National Disaster Management Office has confirmed 24 fatalities, and that 3,300 people are sheltering in 37 evacuation centers. On the main island of Efate, an estimated 90% of structures are damaged or destroyed.

Episcopal Relief & Development has reached out to local partners, though communications outages are hampering the transmission of information. George Bogese, the Programs and Aid Officer for the Anglican Church of Melanesia's Board of Mission Office, reported minimal damage in the Solomon Islands.

"I was in Vanuatu just last week discussing with partner staff the introduction of programming on climate change and disaster risk reduction.  On the way home I traveled through Port-Vila, and have heard that everything in that area has been completely flattened," said Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development's Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction.  "The communications outage makes this situation very challenging, but we are in touch with Anglican Board of Mission-Australia, who have long-standing connections to church bodies in Vanuatu.  Please continue to pray for everyone who has been impacted by this storm, especially those who have lost much, and also the teams who are traveling to gather information and support survivors."

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.

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