Update: Vanuatu Cyclone Response

Direct Relief’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Gordon Willcock is in Vanuatu conducting assessments after Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam tore across the South Pacific last weekend. His update from the field below:

Reports from the northern islands indicate they are okay, apart from the eastern coast of Pentecost. The southern island group, especially Tanna, were hit badly.

The roads have been cleared in and around the capital Port Vila and water is on to about 80 percent of the city, however, no one seems confident it is potable. Power is still out in much of the city.

The real challenge in the outer islands now is food and water as a large percentage of crops, private gardens and fresh water sources have been damaged or completely destroyed. I have seen before-and-after images of a number of small islands and they have been completely defoliated.

There is also a very real potential for disease outbreaks and some malnutrition as community food stocks have been destroyed and the provision of food and water has been slow. This may create an unanticipated need for certain medicines and supplies –  the contacts are in place to react to these needs rapidly and to future needs in the event of another disaster.

Information is still coming in from the islands and this will speed up as cell coverage is re-established. This means the overall situation and priorities of the response may evolve in the next 72 hours and we are now in a position to react, if required.

Good lines of communications are established with the Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization, and MOH medical storage facility. The chief storage and supply manager said there may be a medical supply gap in the next months between the current stock and the arrival of the next order.

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