blog / How to help Cyclone Pam survivors

Sun, 20 March, 2016

How to help Cyclone Pam survivors

In March last year, CYCLONE PAM tore through the islands of Vanuatu. 75,000 people were left homeless as a result of Pam, the most powerful cyclone to ever hit the Pacific. In addition, the island nation has been one of many starved by the El Niño related drought. Today we are sharing information on how you can support continuing recovery projects aiding our Ni-Vanuatu wantoks.


Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea were also impacted by the cyclone, but it was Vanuatu that bore the brunt of the disaster. Although 15 people died as a direct result of the category 5 cyclone, which had winds gusting at up to 320 kilometres per hour, this was a surprisingly low loss of life. The ABC reported that some of this can be attributed to Vanuatu people’s “local knowledge on how to bunker down and survive” the frequent storms visited upon the island nation.

However, their subsistence crops were decimated; approximately 90 per cent were wiped out. The financial toll of Cyclone Pam has been estimated to be $590 million - more than half of Vanuatu's yearly GDP. To make things worse, the El Nino-driven drought saw remaining water sources dry up and crops fail. As a result, residents continue to need and live off food handouts. 

The people of Vanuatu are resilient and community oriented; they have gotten on with their lives and on with the long-term task of restoring and repairing what they can. But given the enormous issues they are facing, they need support. CARE Vanuatu’s program manager told ABC: “Crops were devastated and are yet to fully recover. Here your food garden is your lifeline, so people in Vanuatu are now dealing with an overwhelming double crisis”. 

One year on, aid organisations on the ground in Vanuatu are still delivering drought assistance in addition to their post-cyclone responses. Below you will find information on what some of the large aid organisations have done, and are currently doing, to aid Vanuatu’s recovery. And how you can support these projects.


ACT FOR PEACE’s Cyclone Pam appeal managed to raise over AUD $400,000, which enabled their emergency response to happen.

Act for Peace informed us it has partnered with Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) to provide immediate relief to those who needed it most - distributing food and water to 14 communities on the island of Tongoa, more than 2,000 personal hygiene kits and 25 community water purification kits to schools and aid posts to ensure people had access to clean drinking water. With the kind support of Cotton Growers Australia 680 tarpaulins were distributed to churches, schools and households.

Once the immediate food, water and shelter needs of people were met, Act for Peace teams on the ground began working with communities to give them long-term food and water security. VCC distributed seeds so that local communities could grow their own food rather than rely on emergency relief supplies. Over 46kg of seeds were given to communities, and training and tools were provided to ensure the best results for farming. 

To ensure people can feed themselves in the long term, and earn an income, nurseries and community gardens have been established. To further ensure community resilience and preparedness for future disasters, other plans are being implemented, including the construction of a community training evacuation centre in Port Vila. It will provide a safe shelter for communities to utilise in times of future disasters. 

Act for Peace’s rapid response to Cyclone Pam was enabled due to their ongoing work on a Disaster Risk Reduction project - which began in Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu in 2009. The aim of this ongoing project is to develop plans for extreme weather events in order to minimise destruction and loss of life, whilst simultaneously teaching villagers how to plan for and find solutions to the issues that they face. 

Donate to support Act for Peace’s work through their website HERE.


CARE AUSTRALIA launched the ‘Cyclone Pam Appeal’ in March last year, which funded their disaster response. Megan Chisholm, CARE International's Country Director for Vanuatu, gave us this update on what s happening in Vanuatu today:

"Gardens and food supply have been slowly recovering from the cyclone, but taking time to recover. This recovery has been threatened by an El Nino induced drought which has caused crops to fail. In some areas people are going hungry.

Water supply systems were damaged by Cyclone Pam. There have been emergency repairs to restore basic water supply but it's not enough. More is needed to make sure people have more sustainable access to safe water. Safe water supply was already quite poor before the cyclone and made worse by both the cyclone and El Nino. CARE is currently launching new programs to help rehabilitate water supply systems in Tafea province.

Emergencies are catastrophic for the people affected by them but they also open up windows of opportunities. One of the windows we have seen is that people have started paying more attention to women's roles in agriculture and growing food. After the cyclone, CARE supported groups of women in villages to establish women's seeds and tools banks, and we also supported people like government agricultural extension officers to start talking to women farmers, something that didn't happen before. 

As a result 61 women's groups have formed and started growing new things like peanuts to sell in the market for income. What remains to be done is to support this great previously untapped potential - these women farmers have the capacity to help the food security of their communities."

Donate to support the continuing work of CARE in Vanuatu HERE (scroll down to bottom of page) 


OXFAM teams started responding immediately after the cyclone hit by distributing emergency relief items such as clean water, shelter and hygiene kits. In the three months after the cyclone, Oxfam reached over 21,000 people through their water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and livelihood programs. You can read about they did in greater detail HERE.

What has enabled their work has been donations from Oxfam appeals across the globe; this is what their Cyclone Pam appeals raised (in $AUD):

Oxfam Australia ~ $1,991,474.80

Oxfam New Zealand ~ $204,105.45

Oxfam Belgium ~ $2,688.89

Oxfam Canada ~ $14,392.90

Oxfam Germany ~ $36,466.53

Oxfam Great Britain ~ $1,621,655.27

Oxfam Hong Kong ~ $157,423.12

Oxfam Ireland ~ $18,154

Oxfam Italia ~ $12,278.14

Oxfam America ~ $64,294.69

Their Cyclone Pam six month report highlights the projects this money funded.

Donate to OXFAM Australia HERE


THE RED CROSS reports that it has reached over 44,000 people with humanitarian relief – from tarpaulins for shelter to safe drinking water and help rebuilding their homes. Red Cross helped even before the cyclone hit, warning communities of the dangers and evacuating people to safety. Local Red Cross volunteers provided immediate relief, such as food and water to thousands of people. 

Over recent months, Red Cross has been working across 14 islands affected by the cyclone to help communities with relief supplies, including shelter tool kits and technical information on how to rebuild safer homes. We’ve been helping communities as they rebuild, fixing damaged water pipes and taps so that people have clean water to drink and maintain hygiene. Toilets and rainwater harvesting systems have been rebuilt.

Red Cross has also been helping young women with livelihood skills training, to help them find jobs and earn an income, in turn helping their families and communities. Some parts of the country have also been affected by drought and the El Niño climate pattern. Red Cross has been helping with relief supplies such as water containers and improving access to safe water.

Donate to Vanuatu Red Cross, to support ongoing disaster relief and recovery work with communities across the country, HERE


WORLD VISION has produced this Cyclone Pam response report to explains in detail what World Vision was able provide and how their disaster response was rolled out.

Kayla Robertson of World Vision told us they have reached 62,000 people with essential aid to help them recover and rebuild their lives after the devastation. World Vision Vanuatu is also continuing its development and programmatic work in the country; long-term recovery efforts have been integrated into their ongoing program work.

Although World Vision’s Cyclone Pam appeal is closed, interested donors are encouraged to donate to the Emergency Responder fund - which helps countries, including Vanuatu, when future disasters strike.

Donate to World Vision’s Emergency Responder fund HERE


UNITING WORLD representative Marnie Frost told us:

“Almost one year on, UnitingWorld continues to support our partners the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu as they rebuild schools, health centres and community and church buildings and re-establish livelihoods. 

Our focus is on ‘building back better’ and empowering local communities to withstand (inevitable) future emergencies. This includes making sure buildings are strong, emergency evacuation procedures are in place and supporting church leaders (particularly women) to be trained in Psychosocial Trauma Counselling and Disaster Preparedness. 

One particular program we’re supporting is a debris removal project – this addresses the significant risk that loose debris poses to people in the event of a subsequent cyclone. This involves collection of all the loose building materials that were dislodged from buildings by Cyclone Pam – particularly around school buildings.

Vanuatu is also recovering from a drought arising from El Nino event, so re-establishing agrarian based livelihoods remains a challenge for many communities.”

Donate to support Uniting World’s partners in their rehabilitation efforts HERE


And UNIFEF have published ‘Cyclone Pam: One Year On (March 2016)’, a report that provides a summary of key results achieved by UNICEF for affected children and communities in Vanuatu in the last year. You can read it HERE.


WORDS by Pauline Vetuna.


Image 1 -  Girls standing on the roof as the ground was awash. Photo taken by UnitingWorld Staff

Image 2 - Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam approaching Vanuatu on March 13, 2015. By NASA’s Aqua satellite

Image 3 - Devastation after Cyclone Pam. By Graham Crumb

Image 4 - Cyclone Pam has severely damaged Vanuatu's lush vegetation. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 5 - The first cash-for-workers have started to clean the access road to the Bouffa landfill in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 6 - Cyclone Pam made downfall on Vanuatu March 13 2015, destroying and damaging a total of 15,000 homes like this one. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 7 - A female buisness owner who lost all of her stocks stands infront of her destroyed store in Port Narvin Erramango Province in Vanuatu. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 8 - Anne Naru, mother of 6 children stands in the ruins of her cottage in Port Narvin where she used to make and sell her crafts. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 9 - Women in Port Narvin inform the joint assessment team about their most urgent needs and priorities for rebuilding their community. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Image 10 - Inhabitants of Vanuatu's capital Port Vila show their resilience in the aftermath of cyclone Pam. By Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP


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