Vanuatu: One Month After Cyclone Pam

A Tanna family outside their home, which though damaged, survived the 250 kilometre-per-hour winds during cyclone Pam. © IOM/Troy Dooley 2015

One month ago Cyclone Pam tore across the tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu, ripping up houses and trees, and destroying food stocks and crops. IOM was among the first responders, deploying a surge team made up of staff from Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, the Philippines and the Regional Office in Bangkok.

The team found a country shattered by a once-in-a-lifetime superstorm, but thanks to exceptional disaster preparedness and Communication with Communities by the Government, a much lower death toll than was initially feared. However, much is needed to bring Vanuatu back to where it was before the March 13 typhoon, with shelter, water supply, healthcare and food still in need of augmentation.

Many of the thousands of people who rode out Cyclone Pam in evacuation centres quickly returned home and are repairing damages with kits supplied by IOM and others. A minority remains in transitional shelters where they receive nutrition and healthcare.

Troy Dooley, who is IOM’s current surge team leader on Vanuatu, has just returned from a visit to the tiny southern island of Tanna, where he reported some improvements, but many needs for this remote and ancient community.

“Tanna was completely isolated for days after the storm,” said Troy. “There were literally no links with the outside world. Now some aid is arriving, but people here are very inventive, very resilient. But they will need help as many of the young people have migrated to Australia and New Zealand to pick fruit, meaning a shortage of labour back home for the recovery effort.”

See photo story here