Cyclone Harold leaves 160,000 Homeless: CAT II Disaster Declared

Two people are dead, many injured and more than half the country is without shelter after Cyclone Harold devastated the island nation of Vanuatu this week.

The level of destruction has prompted World Vision Vanuatu (in consultation with World Vision’s Asia Pacific Regional Office) to declare a CAT II National Office Response for the cyclone and launch a $US1 million ($AU1.57 million) appeal for a relief response for 15,000 people in Sanma Province, where Harold made landfall with winds up to 215km/h.

The Category-5 storm has caused catastrophic damage, with around 160,000 people without shelter and with limited food supplies. While the official death toll stands at two, there are unofficial reports of more fatalities, with many injuries reported from the islands of Santo, Malo, and Pentecost.

Aerial assessments of the affected provinces in the north show significant infrastructure damage with 65 per cent of all buildings in Vanuatu’s second-largest town, Luganville, estimated to be destroyed. Many health centres and hospitals have also been damaged or destroyed, roads and communication networks have been impacted, while it will likely take months to restore electricity to the affected areas. Many areas are still without running water, while significant crop and garden damage will affect the livelihoods of several thousand people who rely on small-scale agriculture either as their main income or food.

World Vision Vanuatu country director Kendra Derousseau said the crisis could not have come at a worse time for Vanuatu, with the country already grappling with the threat of COVID-19.

While there are no confirmed cases in Vanuatu, strict border measures mean all international travel to the country is prohibited, effectively shutting down the tourism industry which accounts for about 40 per cent of GDP.

WV Vanuatu’s Response

World Vision Vanuatu is solely grant-funded with programs funded by the Australian (DFAT), New Zealand governments (MFAT), UN agencies such as UNFPA and Unicef and direct funding from the Government of Vanuatu. As such WV Vanuatu is unable to draw down on any ADP/Child Sponsorship funding to support a response.

Based on aerial assessments and reports, World Vision is preparing to respond to the following needs, aiming to reach 3000 households (15,000 people):

1. Emergency Shelter

2. Jerrycans and water purification tabs with appropriate hygiene promotion messages

3. Gender-sensitive hygiene kits with additional provisions for people with disabilities to manage menstruation and also people who experience incontinence

4. Gender-based violence safety-planning and support services by supporting the Vanuatu Women’s Centre to conduct outreach activities and through WVV Faith Leader network in Santo

5. Supporting Disability People’s Organisations to conduct rapid assessments and outreach activities as well as supporting contextualised response with reasonable adjustments to people with disabilities.

Government Response

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women Senator Marise Payne has kindly approved a $4 million package to respond to Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu, which includes:

  • $1 million for humanitarian supplies and logistics support;
  • $1.5 million to support Government of Vanuatu systems;
  • $100,000 to support release of pre-positioned supplies; and
  • $1.4 million to be delivered through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership.

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