The Future is Equal

Cyclone Pam 1 month on: clean water still high priority

One month after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, water remains a high priority, with small islands dependent on rainwater most in need, Oxfam said today.

The international aid agency has been trucking clean water to thousands of people to prevent the spread of disease, but efforts are now turning to sustainable solutions that can be managed by communities.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the people of Vanuatu had shown incredible resilience and were focused on returning to self-sufficiency as soon as possible.

“Cyclone Pam blew water tanks for kilometres in some areas and contaminated water sources, including wells,” Dr Szoke said.

“In the weeks since the cyclone, we have delivered more than 150,000 litres of emergency water to communities on Efate Island to meet their immediate needs.

“We’ve also been pumping out contaminated wells and refilling them with clean water on Ambrym Island, including one at a school. The next phase will be restoring water systems and distributing pipes, pumps and tarpaulins to assist with rainwater harvesting.”

Cyclone Pam made a direct hit on Vanuatu on Friday 13 March, tearing through the archipelago with winds of up to 250 kph. More than 13,000 homes were damaged and people’s livelihoods were devastated.

“With 80 per cent of the population reliant on agricultural production prior to the cyclone, there is urgent need for crops to be replanted,” Dr Szoke said.

“Replanting is essential for long-term food security, so we are providing seeds and tools as well.”

To further combat the threat of preventable diseases, Oxfam has been distributing hygiene kits, reaching a third of the population of Ambrym Island.