Stories

Families left homeless after Cyclone Pam

“I was in a community shelter with my parents. When the strong wind came it was very noisy, I was afraid. Then my sisters and I fell asleep. Next morning we came to our house and it was destroyed. My school was destroyed too. Now I sleep with my parents in the tent and can’t attend classes,” says 10-year-old James from Efate Island.

James and his family are among the tens of thousands of people left homeless in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam devastated the small Pacific island nation. The family of five are currently living under a makeshift emergency relief tent.

James’ mother Margaret says she is worried about feeding her children and generating an income after the family`s crops were wiped out by the category five cyclone. “We’ve lost everything; all our crops. All we can eat now is fallen bananas and coconuts. Some taro survived too, but it’s not enough for our family. I will not be able to sell fruits and vegetables in the market to make some money. We barely have enough food for ourselves.”

Schools have officially reopened in Vanuatu but, with 50 per cent of the country`s education infrastructure destroyed or badly damaged, thousands of children remain unable to attend. At this stage, it is unclear when James will be able to start classes again, with his own primary school sustaining huge damage.

Access to clean water is also an immediate concern for families like James`. Most water tanks have been damaged or destroyed by the cyclone and wells contaminated. Some people are forced to walk long distances to fetch or purchase fresh water, while others are so desperate that they are boiling and drink seawater.

James and his sisters, 14-year-old Priscilla and three-year-old Ester, are at high risk of waterborne diseases, which cause severe diarrhoea and can lead to death. ChildFund Australia is working with Live & Learn Vanuatu to restore access to clean water to help ensure the health of children in cyclone-ravaged areas.

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