Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a small nation located in Oceania, a region near the South Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago nation made up of approximately 80 islands and is best known for its touristy capital, Port Vila. Much like many developing nations, issues are living conditions are not black and white. Instead, they are rife with complexity and nuance. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu

  1. First on the list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu is that it is comprised of more than 80 islands, many being volcanic islands, covering more than 1,300 kilometers.  Vanuatu’s population is estimated to be 299,882 people. Most of the islands are not close in proximity, and dangerous waters and unpredictable weather make travel between the islands difficult. This creates problems with securing access to vital places, such as hospitals, especially for people who do not live in Port Vila. Vanuatu’s vast geography also hinders government delivery services because access to the smaller islands is limited. Remote villages are the primary standard of living as citizens have discovered the best habitable locations and resources in this volcanic nation.
  2. Homes on the islands of Vanuatu are primarily made of branches, grass and leaves woven together to provide good protection from frequent heavy rains, but they can be unstable in more severe weather conditions.  Certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, can cause these homes to be stripped away completely. This especially became clear after Cyclone Pam hit the Vanuatu islands in 2015. 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings were destroyed, including many homes.  Many people were left homeless after this natural disaster hit. Many of the islands are still in the process of rebuilding after the effects of Cyclone Pam.
  3. The economy is agriculture-based.  Therefore, most citizens of Vanuatu earn their living through means such as small scale farming. Agriculture is Vanuatu’s biggest industry, and 75 percent of its population depends on it for a living.  The domestic sales of agricultural products are not as strong as exportation sales. When Cyclone Pam hit the region in 2015, approximately 64.1 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP was heavily impacted since most of its crops were damaged or destroyed from the cyclone.
  4. The beef industry is one of the most popular and profitable industries in Vanuatu.   In fact, Vanuatu is the only Pacific country capable of exporting beef. The GDP percentage of animals is only six percent.  While beef is not the main meat consumption product in Vanuatu; pork is, it is the most well-known and lucrative agricultural item exported from the small country.
  5. Since rainwater and freshwater sources are the basis of survival on these islands, the nation makes maintaining reliable and clean water a priority. However, clean water is not always easy to access. For example, Tanna is one of the most inhabited islands of Vanuatu, but it has trouble getting and sustaining clean water. Recently, a pilot project was developed that converts sunlight, air and rainwater into freshwater that is drinkable. ADB and Zero Mass Water created and implemented the solution by installing 20 solar panels with safe drinking-water technology.  Each solar panel provides three to five liters for a total of approximately 100 liters of clean water each day. Vanuatu citizens with no direct access to a clean water supply system are being aided by the implementation of this project.
  6. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu hard. Eleven people were killed, and the cyclone caused major damage to homes and facilities such as hospitals, schools, etc. The damage caused by this cyclone showed Vanuatu’s fragility when it comes to natural disasters. Multiple aid agencies, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were quick to donate money to Vanuatu in order to help them recover from the destruction. Since then, Vanuatu has continued to receive disaster aid funds.
  7. Australia is a major economic partner of Vanuatu and has recently donated around $66.2 million for developmental assistance. With Australia as it’s biggest financial partner, Vanuatu has become more financially stable. Australia also provides plenty of tourism (which is one of Vanuatu’s biggest markets). In addition, in 2016, Australia committed to a support program to help the residents of Vanuatu handle issues associated with climate change. Australia pledged 300 million dollars over four years to the Pacific region to respond to and prepare for natural disasters and climate change.
  8. The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster has recently launched an initiative that aims to give Vanuatu 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This plan is known as the Nationally Determined Contribution. Vanuatu is hoping that this initiative will be the first step in mitigating climate change within its own land.
  9. Education faces limitations in Vanuatu because schooling is not mandatory.  Only 60 percent of children graduate to secondary school. School is taught in either English or French. The literacy rate is only 64 percent, but most of the literate citizens are under age 35. In remote island locales, schools can be temporary structures built from wood and leaves and are affected by storms and weather conditions. Since education has not experienced major improvements, organizations such as the Vanuatu Education Support Program was created in 2012 to better the education system. It aims to provide support for the Ministry of Education and Training’s corporate plan and the Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy. One of the solutions includes “improving literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 3.”
  10. The health care system in the Vanuatu islands suffers from a lack of facilities and qualified staff.  There are five public hospitals and one private hospital for the 80 plus islands. Two are on the modernized islands of Port Vila and Luganville. The doctor to patient ratio is 8/10,000. If someone is in dire condition, they often are flown to other countries such as Australia or New Zealand which can make an emergency situation more complicated and dangerous.  All pharmaceuticals are imported from other countries.

This concludes the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu. This archipelagic nation is very independent and allows its citizens to choose how they want to live, but, due to the structure of a nation of small islands, this way of life comes with setbacks.  The citizens of Vanuatu have seen some small improvements in their way of life, and with the positive aspects of this country, improvements can continue with the right steps.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr


Human Rights in VanuatuVanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean slightly larger than Connecticut and home to fewer than 300,000 people. The nation gained its independence from France and the United Kingdom in the summer of 1980. Despite the several decades of independence, one can still see the strong influence that these European nations have on Vanuatu to this day. For instance, aspects of English common law and French law are heavily incorporated into Vanuatu’s own legal system. The protection of human rights in Vanuatu is sadly lacking in several areas, such as the protection of women against violence and discrimination, prison conditions and governmental corruption.

One of the many struggles that women are currently facing in Vanuatu is an inability to even get their voices heard. The nation has a 52-member parliament but no female representation. Violence against women is a frequent occurrence in Vanuatu. The U.S. State Department 2015 Report on human rights in Vanuatu states that while reliable statistics on this topic are nowhere to be found, police have noticed a growing trend of violence against women. In order for this to change, parts of Vanuatu’s culture will likely need to change. Women in Vanuatu often do not report incidents of violence either due to a lack of knowledge regarding their own rights or fear of possible backlash for their actions.

Corruption is another problem in Vanuatu. Generally, corruption can be quelled by making and effectively implementing laws prohibiting it, but Vanuatu is currently unable to implement the law. As a result, those who are corrupt are seldom held accountable. Transparency International is an organization that, according to its website, works “closely with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.” The organization believes that the Vanuatu government must start and finance a national anti-corruption agency to combat this practice.

The human rights of prisoners in Vanuatu are not being sufficiently protected either. Thankfully, foreign donor funding has allowed for prisoner and detention center conditions in the region to improve, but they still have not met international standards.

Vanuatu clearly has much work to do to improve the protection of its people’s human rights.  A step in the right direction did occur in this past summer as Vanuatu participated in a Pacific Islands Forum review of the nation’s policies and programmes.  A goal of this initiative is to create a toolkit or checklist that the government can use moving forward to help it improve its protection of its people’s human rights. This review is just now coming to an end, so its impact remains to be seen.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Google

Vanuatu Hunger
Vanuatu is a developing nation of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Agriculture is an important industry for the country, while fishing is an important food source for the people who live there. There are many factors impacting hunger in Vanuatu. Some are better understood than others, and some factors are universal in developing nations. Below are ten facts that help describe hunger in Vanuatu.

Hunger Causes Mineral Deficiencies and Lack of Macronutrients
Around 38% of children under five and 24% of women suffer from anemia. Twelve percent of the population gets less than half the recommended amount of Vitamin A. Vanuatuans do not always get enough macronutrients such as protein or calories either.

Malnutrition Leads to Unhealthy Kids
In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that 28.5% of children under five had low heights for their age, 10.7% were underweight, 4.4% had low body weights for their heights and 4.6% were obese. Obesity, stunting and wasting can all be connected to poor nutrition and helps explain how these are all seen in developing nations like Vanuatu.

Noncommunicable Diseases are Rising Because of Malnutrition
Noncommunicable diseases, which include cardiovascular disease and diabetes, account for 70% of deaths in Vanuatu and can be linked to poor nutrition. As global trade increases, Vanuatuans have more access to processed, high-calorie, high-salt and high-sugar foods. These foods are typically less expensive than healthy options and are becoming more common as a result.

Climate Change Exacerbates Hunger in Vanuatu
As in other developing nations, climate change has a large impact on food security, in part because of these countries’ inability to adapt. Vanuatu has been ranked in the top five countries for climate change impact.

Cyclone Pam, which struck Vanuatu in 2015, may be a result of climate change-induced weather patterns. This cyclone destroyed banana and coconut trees while stripping citrus and avocado trees. It also killed livestock and impacted the fishing industry by damaging equipment and coral reefs as well as killing fish stock. Eighty percent of Vanuatuans feed themselves through their agriculture.

Hunger in Vanuatu is More Prevalent in Urban Areas
Those residing in urban areas typically consume fewer calories, iron and Vitamin A. This occurs because people in the countryside have room for farms on their land and can provide their independent food sources. Those in urban areas (who do not have room for farmland) have to pay more for food due to transportation costs.

Households Headed by Women Have Better Nutrition
In homes that are run by women, people are likely to eat more calories, protein, iron and Vitamin A, as opposed to households headed by men. While families led by men are more liable to face hardship, the relationship between gender and nutrient intake in Vanuatu is not currently understood.

More Dependents Means Less Food
As the dependents in a household increases, the number of calories and protein each person eats decreases. When a home had no dependents, each person typically eats 130 grams of protein. With five dependents, each individual only eats 58 grams of protein. This fact is a simple relationship between more people being dependent on those who have income.

Fish Contribute Significantly to Vanuatuans’ Diet
Fishing contributes little to Vanuatu’s economy. Seventy-two percent of households fish. Of those who do fish, 73% feed themselves with their catch, while 26% feed themselves and sell some too. As a result, fishing is critical to food security in Vanuatu.

This fact is another reason why addressing climate change is important. As ocean temperatures rise, coral reefs housing fish may die.

Australia Cares About Vanuatu
Perform an internet search for “Who’s helping Vanuatu” and many Australian websites will pop up. Indeed, most of the reporting on Cyclone Pam was done by Australian news outlets. Between 2016 and 2017, the Australian government gave Vanuatu $69.8 million in development aid. Between 2017 and 2018, they are budgeted to give the same amount. Much of this support is for development not related to hunger. However, Australia allocated $50 million over three years to rebuild the damage suffered by Cyclone Pam.

The United Nations is Helping Fight Hunger in Vanuatu
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working with Vanuatu since 1983. The FAO has helped Vanuatu’s agriculture and fishery sectors recover from past disasters, including Cyclone Pam. The FAO is also working with the country to increase food security.

More than 80 islands comprise the country of Vanuatu. Set in the Pacific Ocean, the country is a favorite tourist spot. More than 12% live in poverty. This fact naturally affects food security. While Vanuatu does not get much of news coverage, there are governments and organizations continually helping reduce hunger in Vanuatu.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu is a South Pacific island group famed for its beautiful beaches, world-class diving and ancient culture. Beauty aside, the island has dealt with a number of issues surrounding its water quality and the reliability of its water system.

Because the island is inhabited in part by tourists who visit sporadically, maintaining reliable water sources for the entire island population can prove to be quite difficult. Furthermore, the island community predicts that the risk of pollution and climate-related changes will affect and likely lessen the availability of clean water sources in years to come.

Water quality in Vanuatu is paramount to sustaining the island’s natural environment and its booming tourist industry. As a result, Vanuatu’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources works constantly to ensure that citizens and visitors have access to sufficient quantities of clean water to perform basic functions including drinking, cooking and sanitation.

One obstacle that many island communities face is the lack of freshwater sources available nearby. The island’s Ministry of Water emphasizes providing equitable access to clean water sources for all communities to support public health and promote social and economic development. Vanuatu’s main strategy to access fresh water is through groundwater drilling, which provides the urban areas of Port Vila and Luganville with clean water for daily tasks.

While accessing clean water in one of the country’s large cities may not be difficult, a major concern lies in providing rural communities with clean water. One way that Vanuatu addresses this concern is through the use of smaller hand pumps in rural areas as an alternative to groundwater drilling machinery. Another effective method is rainwater catchments which are slightly less reliable and require monitoring of weather patterns.

Perhaps the most important concern for the island country of Vanuatu is the fragile and limited nature of their freshwater sources. As a precaution, water resource officers patrol rivers and other water sources and monitor the river flow to predict droughts or flooding. Water resource employees also conduct water quality testing to ensure that the local and visiting populations are protected from water-borne diseases that plague the area such as scabies, skin diseases and malaria.

Water quality in Vanuatu is constantly and effectively monitored by the government and natural resource employees to ensure that the island’s biggest asset, its natural beauty, remains intact. The island community’s continuous prioritization of water control and resource preservation is extremely effective to combat the issues that many water-locked areas face.

Sarah Coiro

Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu is an island nation located north of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 83 separate islands and six distinct provinces. Because Vanuatu was occupied by several European nations during its colonial period, it has retained three national languages: English, French and Bislama. Bislama is described as a form of Pidgin English that formed naturally from contact with the French and English; it has become a native language to the islands and is still practiced widely. Even with all the culture from many nations still within the country, education in Vanuatu is unremarkable.

Education in Vanuatu is only compulsory for the first six years of primary education. While the Ministry of Education offers four years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, after the first six years many students leave their education behind without learning useful skills to benefit their future lives. Some remote tribal areas do not benefit from an education at all.

According to the Nations Encyclopedia, in 1999, 96 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school. Although a seemingly promising number, by the end of that same year, only 23 percent of those same students were eligible to attend a secondary school.

The citizens of Vanuatu could be capable of fluency in three languages within their homes and yet the literacy rate is very low, at 64 percent. In an effort to combat this, the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP) or also commonly known as the Book Flood Project, was formed.

The VANLEP program “endeavors to promote and enhance current efforts in upgrading education in [Vanuatu] and… in increasing literacy levels among children living in rural areas.” The program is making efforts to achieve these goals by stimulating learning environments by providing schools with books for children of all ages — known as a book flood. The program also helps to train parents and teachers to be the best they can be in order to help the children learn. The program aims to update the school curriculum and create partnerships with communities and schools to best benefit the children via a communal learning mentality.

Education in Vanuatu has its struggles, but it is making an effort to enlighten and encourage its students to reach their fullest potential. As the literacy rates increase, the entire country will benefit from a full and focused education.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change Refugees
Given the contemporary discussion about refugees, which focuses primarily on those who have been forced from their homes because of conflict or persecution, it is important to evaluate other push factors for refugees around the world. Here are five facts you should know about Vanuatuan refugees — the first climate change refugee.

  1. Officially, Vanuatu has no refugees, either ingoing or outgoing.
    According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which provides the international legal definition of refugee and establishes states’ responsibilities to them, Vanuatu is not home to any refugees. Vanuatu’s official refugee population reached a high in 2010, with a total refugee population of four.
  2. However, Vanuatu is home to the world’s first “climate change refugees.”
    In 2005, the U.N. Environment Programme reported the forced inland movement of nearly 100 villagers in the province of Tegua in northern Vanuatu, citing the people as the world’s first climate change refugees. People in Vanuatu inhabit 65 of the 80 islands in the archipelago, and many live in coastal cities or villages.
    Because most of the infrastructure of small island nations is located along shallow coasts, countries like Vanuatu are vulnerable to rising sea levels and ever-increasing tropical storms. Since 2005, thousands of Pacific islanders, such as those from Kiribati, have been forced to move to larger islands like Fiji, where they often experience difficulty integrating into society.
  3. This may be just the beginning.
    A 2013 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that climate change could cause sea levels to rise by as much as 3 feet by 2100. For low-lying island nations, this change could be catastrophic. In Vanuatu, a rise in sea level of this proportion would require the forced relocation of thousands. And Vanuatu wouldn’t be alone; its population of 277,000 represents just a small portion of the hundreds of millions of people around the world who live along coasts.
  4. Open-Source data provides hope and information for potential climate change refugees. Collaboration between the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the governments of Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and Papua New Guinea created The Vanuatu Globe. This open-source data platform maps low-lying coastal areas to help citizens and governments alike identify areas facing the greatest risk of coastal flooding from rising sea levels.
    Over 1,000 people accessed the data set within days of Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. The platform aided recovery efforts and initiatives to improve infrastructure and prevent future devastation.
  5. Work is being done to prepare in Vanuatu and elsewhere.
    The Capacity Building for the Development of Adaptation Measures in Pacific Island Countries Program, established in 2002, represents just one of many initiatives working with island nations to reinforce infrastructure and make sound development decisions under the looming threat of climate change. Capacity-building programs such as this, complemented by expanded access to mapping data, will help citizens and leaders prepare for large-scale environmental shifts.

Laurel Klafehn

Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
There is great potential for economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu according to a thorough analysis from the islands’ new representative. The representative, Guido Rurangwa, is overseeing nine different projects across the two countries that will be equal to $164.47 million or more as time goes on and relationships deepen.

The projects in both countries will cover a variety of issues such as youth employment and training, renewable energy, disaster resilience, climate and more. An example of this is the Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project in Vanuatu. The project, which was approved on June 17, 2016 and will last until April 30, 2022, aims to reconstruct and improve certain areas of Vanuatu hit especially hard by Cyclone Pam. This assistance will provide immediate responses to emergencies.

A key project in the Solomon Islands is the Rural Development Program II, which has been in place since Nov. 21, 2014. This project’s goal is to improve basic infrastructure to rural areas in an attempt to establish links between small-scale farmers and markets. The project will also help rebuild production quality after flash floods that hurt numerous farms in April 2014. The project will close on Feb. 28, 2020.

Rurangwa’s analysis is extremely trusted because of his long history with the World Bank and years of experience in the field. Rurangwa joined the World Bank in May 2001 as an economist in the Macroeconomic and Fiscal Department. Since then, he has advanced to numerous other ranks and positions, such as senior economist for Rwanda, his home nation, and senior country economist for Egypt.

This new information proves to be good news for the Solomon Islands based on the history of their economy. A majority of the population of the Solomon Islands live in small, rural villages, engaging in agriculture to sustain themselves and cash economy. The country’s economy almost collapsed in 2000, when the country suffered from a coup due to civil unrest. Even a large number of secondary schools provide agricultural training to students.

Vanuatu’s economy shares similar characteristics with the Solomon Islands’ economy. Also based mostly on subsistence farming, Vanuatu’s main exports include kava, cocoa and more, which are traded with many European nations and countries like Australia and New Zealand. The country does boast a bit more success than the Solomon Islands with tourism and offshore financial services.

The World Bank may also be a contributing factor to the economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. With 13 active World Bank projects in the Solomon Islands and 10 active projects in Vanuatu, both countries possess a future filled with opportunity and growth.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

Despite progress in nutrition and food security, Vanuatu’s recent cyclone has caused a major set-back for the nation’s efforts in reducing malnutrition and food insecurity.

As a result of the storm, an estimated 13,000 homes were destroyed and people’s lives were affected. The storm caused increased food and water shortages, as well as destroyed agricultural lands that sustained the area’s population. It has also driven a large portion of the population into poverty.

Following the destruction of Cyclone Pam, malnutrition among its citizens, especially children and babies, have increased. According to UNICEF, an estimated 90 percent of food gardens in the affected parts of the country have been destroyed as a result of the cyclone, consequently creating a large-scale food shortage among the nation’s farming communities.

With a majority of its crops wiped out and shelters destroyed, Vanuatu is experiencing an increase in hunger and poverty. The United Nations warned that lasting food insecurity is a consequence of the cyclone wiping out over 90 percent of the nation’s crops. Currently, there is an estimated 250,000 people who live in Vanuatu. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, the nation spreads across more than 60 islands. The U.N. said the population, who relies significantly on agriculture, is now short on food, and farmers are short on income. With no income coming in, the livelihoods of many in Vanuatu are threatened.

The cyclone not only affected the farmers who rely on crops as a source of nutrition, but also the water systems needed to ensure crop growth. Lack of clean water as a result of contaminated tanks and wells from the cyclone is a cause for concern. Vanuatu’s population is reliant on agricultural production, with 80 percent of the people utilizing crops as sustainability. By having a large percentage of the crops wiped out, the country is in need of replantation and water. Resorting water systems and replanting lost crops is a step toward improving malnutrition and food insecurity in Vanuatu.

Aside from recent events, there are several other factors that influence food insecurity and malnutrition in Vanuatu. Although rural parts of the country primarily rely on a subsistence way of life, Vanuatu has transitioned from consuming traditional food to imported food such as rice, milk and bread. The traditional food in Vanuatu consists of yams, taro and fruits including plantains and breadfruit. Due in part to the transition to imported foods, agriculture production and sustainability in Vanuatu has been affected.

Additionally, malnutrition and stunted growth is more prevalent among children living in Vanuatu. Children, especially babies, are more susceptible to the sudden food insecurity. There is a visible threat that children, especially under 2 years old, can slip into acute malnutrition. According to FAO, malnutrition in Vanuatu has decreased over the years; however, it’s been brought to attention that children who are 2 years old or less have a greater risk of stunted growth.

The good news is that government-led emergency relief systems are ensuring that victims are provided with food, water and shelter. Furthermore, foreign aid also goes toward helping combat malnutrition, hunger and poverty in the country. As Vanuatu recovers from the cyclone and rebuilds itself, it will once again see progress.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: FAO, Pacific Islands Report, Reuters, The Sydney Morning Herald, The World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Climate-Change-Global-Warming-Rising-Sea-LevelsDeveloping countries with low national incomes are being hit the hardest by climate change. Rising sea-levels, storms and cyclones and high temperatures as a result of global warming are some of the consequences produced by climate change.

Climate change is defined as a shift in global weather patterns, largely due to man-made influences on the environment. According to a U.N. report, the average land and sea temperatures are expected to rise an additional four degrees Celsius; meaning, future temperatures can become warm enough to ruin agricultural sectors and impact ways of living. When land as well as sea temperatures warm, a spike in rainfall occurs, causing heavier storms with stronger monsoons and cyclones. Additionally, warming oceans result in melting glaciers and polar ice caps which cause rising sea-levels and coastal flooding.

Global Warming

In the past 50 years global temperatures have risen faster than any other time in history. Severe heat waves and droughts, due to warming, impact not only water and food sources but individual health as well. If exposed to heat waves for an extended amount of time, illness and death become likely. Diseases transmitted through food and water also increase since bacteria rapidly multiply when exposed to heat for a long period of time.

Additionally, poor crop yield due to droughts can cause increased hunger and famine. Droughts also cause a scarcity in water supplies that also contribute to poor health and hunger.

Stronger Storms

Storms such as cyclones and monsoons are being amplified as a result of climate change.

Developing nations such as the islands of Vanuatu are at an increased risk of such storms. Vanuatu has recently experienced its strongest cyclone yet. The storm caused coastal flooding due to rising sea-levels and has affected food supplies and destroyed around 90 percent of buildings in its country’s capital of Port Vila, according to The Guardian. The storm has affected business and employment as well, leaving many without jobs or homes.

Rising Sea-Levels

According to National Geographic, since the 1990s, sea levels have been rising 0.14 inches per year. As sea levels rise each year, islands of developing nations are at risk of losing land to the sea.

For example, the island of Kiribati faces being the first country to become a refugee of climate change. Rising sea levels not only invade the land of Kiribati, but also drive its people into deeper poverty. The salt water that seeps into the land contaminates fresh water sources and kills crops that are needed for survival.

Countries like Kiribati along with other developing nations are at a higher risk because of unavailable funds to combat the consequences of climate change. Poor countries cannot afford to counter the effects the climate has on its environment, causing developing nations to be more susceptible. Global warming and droughts, storms such as cyclones and monsoons along with rising sea-levels require a degree of funding in order to combat its effects. Without it, developing nations will continue to be hit the hardest as climate change progresses.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, Natural Resources Defense Council, The World Bank
Photo: National Geographic

The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is reeling from the effects of Tropical Cyclone Pam, which hit the country late last week. The storm was a category five and was one of the strongest ever recorded. Its winds were sustained at 165 mph, with gusts exceeding 200 mph.

Every one of the country’s islands took a hit, and all 270,000 islanders have been severely impacted. The capital city of Port Vila has been crippled with 90 percent of its buildings sustaining damage. 15,000 of the city’s 40,000 residents are now homeless. But Port Vila was actually spared the worst of the storm.

The hardest hit islands are also some of the most remote and difficult to reach. The worst devastation has occurred in the south. More than 90 percent of all buildings have been completely destroyed on some of these islands. It has taken nearly a week to make contact with them and aid has yet to arrive. One remote island has reported that a lack fresh water is forcing residents to drink salt water.

NGOs say the logistics of delivering aid to Vanuatu are very difficult because so much of the country is remote and difficult to reach. Some are calling it the most difficult operation they have ever faced. Since most of the infrastructure has been destroyed, many runways are unusable and this has put many islands out of reach for airplanes delivering aid.

It’s currently peak season for tropical cyclones in the South Pacific and Vanuatu is certainly no stranger to them, nor is it unfamiliar with natural disasters. The country has constantly been ranked as one of the most disaster prone in the world. The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security listed it number one in its world risk report of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, ahead of the Philippines and Tonga.

The reason it scores so high is due to its natural setting that is particularly prone to disasters and the fact that it is severely underdeveloped. Vanuatu is considered one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. Its government is inefficient and known for corruption. 70 percent of the population lives in remote areas and has limited access to basic services or utilities.

The government has few resources of its own to cope with the disaster and much of what it did have was destroyed by the storm. The government has not been able to provide much assistance outside the capital and the international community has had to take charge of the relief effort.

Two-thirds of the population rely on agriculture to earn a living, but nearly all of the country’s crops have been destroyed by the storm. This means a large number of people are now in need of food assistance and have lost their livelihood. Most buildings are built of flimsy material and are not designed to cope with strong winds. Aid groups estimate that up to 150,000 people, more than half the population, are likely homeless.

A good early warning system and a good network of storm shelters have kept the death toll remarkably low. Only 11 deaths have been confirmed, but many more are missing and unofficial reports from some islands report over 40 deaths. The death toll is likely to rise as aid groups struggle to reach islands facing hunger and disease in the storm’s aftermath. Still, many consider it a miracle that the death toll is not in the thousands.

Matt Lesso

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Business Insider, Deutsche Welle, New Zealand Herald, Virginia Gazette, The Weather Channel
Photo: CNN