Vanuatu and Fiji are among the countries recovering from the impact of Cyclone Harold, a category 5 storm that hit the region in mid-April. $2.5m from the UN’s emergency humanitarian fund will help thousands of people in Vanuatu affected by Cyclone Harold. The UN has also offered support to other hard-hit countries in the South Pacific. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Initial assessments suggest as much as 90 percent of the population in Sanma, the most affected province of Vanuatu, lost their homes, and more than half of all schools and almost a quarter of health centres were damaged.” Emergency funds will go to safe drinking water, food, shelter, and healthcare.
Damage on the Vanuatu island of Pentecost has been compared to a bombing. Two of Vanuatu’s four deaths occurred there: a 90-year-old woman died after the cyclone tore off the roof of her home in Lekaro village, while a falling concrete wall at a church hall in Melsisi killed another woman. She had taken refuge with her family in a church hall where many others had sought shelter. The president of the newly-formed Port Vila Pentecost Disaster Committee, Ian Baltor, claims that response from the Red Cross and the National Disaster Management office ”was very late”, adding, “They have dropped off some relief packages but that was after a week. To me that is too long.”
The Fiji Government has declared a thirty-day State of Natural Disaster for areas affected by Cyclone Harold. This allows the permanent secretary and minister “the powers to use government resources for works needed in the affected areas to bring about normalcy”. For areas of the Pacific impacted by the cyclone, relief efforts have been impacted by the coronavirus. These countries are having to balance COVID-19 lockdown efforts with cyclone relief (at a time when Fiji has the virus) and subject any relief supplies to quarantine (three days in Vanuatu), among other issues.
For a comprehensive assessment of the COVID-19 virus as it is unfolding in many South Pacific countries and territories, please click here.
Prepared by Andy E. Nystrom, PPP Archivist & Research Assistant.