In March 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam tore across the South Pacific causing widespread damage and destruction in Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. Vanuatu was the country worst hit: it was directly struck by the full force of the Category 5 winds and rain, affecting half the population and leaving 82,000 children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Rachel’s world was turned upside down when Cyclone Pam slammed into Vanuatu. After watching her house get washed away, this three-year-old became fearful and withdrawn. As communities struggled to recover from the destruction, UNICEF gave 10,602 children like Rachel access to safe spaces where they could get psychosocial support, play, learn and simply be kids again. © UNICEF/UNI181131/Crumb
It was the worst disaster the country had ever seen.
UNICEF has been on the ground in Vanuatu for many years and was prepared to respond in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Pam.
In the weeks after the cyclone, UNICEF reached the children and families worst affected critical clean water, food, shelter and healthcare. Destroyed transport infrastructure made it difficult to deliver life-saving supplies between Vanuatu’s islands but UNICEF supporters made sure we left no child behind.
Liza's contractions started during the chaos of Cyclone Pam and 48 hours later, baby Jeremiah was born into terribly unhygienic conditions. Contaminated water gave Jeremiah a rash, but with the arrival of emergency water supplies his health returned.
“I was so relieved when they brought us water,” said Liza. “I will use it to drink – as I am breastfeeding, and I will also be able to wash my baby in clean water. I am so thankful, because without this supply, we would have had no water at all.” © UNICEF/UNI181326/Crumb
A disaster like Cyclone Pam can have a devastating effect on a child’s sense of security and safety. That’s why UNICEF helped restore normalcy to children’s lives by getting them back to learning and playing as soon as possible. With 80 per cent of schools in Vanuatu damaged during the cyclone, UNICEF worked around the clock to set up temporary learning spaces where children could access to psychosocial support.
Going back to school made a big difference for children like Jojo, who lost their homes and classrooms to Cyclone Pam.
"Our crayons were lying everywhere,
our books were torn... So UNICEF
gave me a bag with stationery
inside. It made me happy.”
- Jojo, age 9
Together with our supporters and the Fijian government, UNICEF reached:
- 70 per cent of schools affected by Cyclone Pam with emergency education supplies and school tents for temporary learning, benefiting 34,210 children.
- 51,324 people with the clean water and sanitation they urgently needed to restart life after Cyclone Pam. UNICEF repaired water systems, delivered trucks of emergency water, providing schools with hygiene facilities and helped families test and store water.
- 10,602 children and young people with access to safe spaces where they could recover and play.
- 128,012 children with vaccinations for measles, as well as vitamin A and deworming tablets to protect them from the dangers of life after disaster.
- 13,241 children with micronutrient supplements to prevent malnutrition and stunting.
UNICEF is still working to meet the needs of Vanuatu’s children and we’ll be there as long as they need us. Find out how you can support children in other emergencies around the world here.