After a profoundly stressful event like Cyclone Pam it’s important to get children back to learning and playing as soon as possible. Every day that children are left on the streets is another day of vulnerability and missed opportunity.

Many schools in Vanuatu have been badly damaged or completely destroyed and it will take months to rebuild, but UNICEF is helping students into temporary learning spaces right now.

St Josephs Primary School in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam
Ellen, 12, standing in the remains of St. Joseph’s Primary School. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Mcgarry
On Efate Island, St. Joseph’s Primary School was first to open in a UNICEF tent stocked with the vital materials teachers and students need to start learning again.

For the tens of thousands of school-aged children who saw the storm devastate their communities, reuniting with teachers and friends helps to reassure them that normal life can return. UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen says children desperately need “a sense of normalcy and stability that helps them to psychologically recover.”

12-year-old Ellen is finally smiling again after seeing Cyclone Pam’s disturbing impact. “When we got to the garden after the storm we saw the birds were all dead. The wind had killed them,” she remembers.

Young student at a blackboard in St Josephs Primary School
Damasen, 11, by the blackboard at St. Joseph’s Primary School where not much else has survived. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Mcgarry

Damasen, 11, had his life turned upside down by the storm. “We had nowhere to sleep, nowhere to cook,” he says. “I came to see the school…there was no school and I felt no good.”

Now Damasen has a chance to start playing with his friends again and to start putting the events of Cyclone Pam behind him.

Students of Villa East Primary School in Vanuatu
Students of Vila East Primary school proudly show off their new bags. © UNICEF/UNI181866/Sokhin

Most children found their school gear was washed away or destroyed by flooding and the harsh reality is that many parents just can’t afford to buy new supplies. UNICEF is distributing thousands of schoolbags filled with the exercise books, pencils and other basics that every student deserves.

Ready for the next emergency


To reach children in an emergency like Cyclone Pam as soon as they need us, UNICEF needs to be ready to launch an emergency response without delay. You can help give our teams the medical, hygiene and water supplies they need to take action and save children's lives.

Donate now to help UNICEF reach children where the need is greatest.