It has been over two weeks since category 5 Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu leaving widespread destruction and damage. Since then the Butterfly Trust has been working hard to assist with the relief effort and put in place programmes for longer term recovery.
The Trust’s team on the ground in Vanuatu consists of Dave and Lynn Colbert, our local advisory trustees and committee members, Don Bradford, Linda Trenkner, Benson Tangou, Abed Kamsel and Viran Tovu, our in-country manager Tony Batten, and our coordinator Aya Pigdon. Our fundraising team (Vijay, Hannah, Cathy, Ken, Barbara, Helen, and Anne) is also working hard in New Zealand, as are Huck and Doris Chua, Jane Spear in Hamilton, Liz Price in Nelson and Anne and Eric Simmons, also in Nelson.
We are also working closely with a number of organisations such as Yacht Aid Global, Kaleva Yachting Services, and Rotary.
The Trust’s strategy is to assist in the relief work wherever possible, but also to maintain its focus on the long-term objective of providing access to education and health services.
To achieve this, the Trust has been working very closely with the international relief effort and the Vanuatu government. There is a coordinated effort going on which is overseen by the government. The NGOs gather into groups called “clusters” which work on specific areas of need. The Trust has been working with separate clusters for food security and agriculture (FSAC), water and sanitation (WASH), shelter, education, health, and infrastructure.
Immediate relief work
• Gathering information
The Trust has been appointed the coordinating organisation for gathering informal assessments from overlooked areas. We have been appointed by the Food Security and Agriculture cluster (FSAC) which is responsible for getting emergency food to affected areas. So far, we have identified south Malekula as an area previously overlooked. It has suffered a lot more damage than previously thought.
As a result south Malekula has now been made a Priority 3 food distribution area. We have no other information that indicates any other areas have been overlooked.
• On the ground relief
Since the declaration of south Malekula as a Priority 3 distribution area, the Trust has been working to get food, clean water and shelter to the area. On Saturday, we arranged for a large supply of Aquatabs to be helicoptered to the Maskelyne Islands and Akhamb Island in south Malekula. Water supplies there are short and drinking water is contaminated.
We are also working to get food from northwest Malekula or Santo sent down to south Malekula to alleviate the immediate food shortage. We are working with Caritas and the French Red Cross to get shelter supplies eg. tarpaulins, to south Malekula, especially to the larger centre of Lamap.
We are exploring with the Ministries of Education and Public Works, ways of getting the large number of schools which are damaged, rebuilt as quickly as possible. We are particularly focused on the island of Tongoa which is one of the worst-affected areas.
We have a number of doctors and nurses available to come to Vanuatu if required by the Ministry of Health. Luckily, because of the relatively low death toll, they have not been required yet.
Longer term work
• We are in the early stages of establishing a rebuilding education programme with some of the larger NGOs. This is designed to work closely with the islanders to develop ways in which their housing can be strengthened in readiness for any future disaster.
• We are also in the early stages of setting up a community health education programme which now has particular relevance given the possibility of disease outbreak after disasters such as Cyclone Pam.
• All our usual programmes such as school fee subsidies, dental treatment and medical treatment will hopefully continue as usual this year.
We have had a wonderful response to our call for funds to assist in the relief work. All of you have given so generously, both individuals and corporations.
We are incredibly grateful for all the support and encouragement you have given. It is amazing. Thank you so much for thinking about the small island nation of Vanuatu which has been devastated by the cyclone. The people here are very resilient and are showing great heart in picking up the pieces of their lives, but it makes it a lot easier for them to know that people like you, actually care for them.