Children in urgent need of clean water after Cyclone Pam devastates Vanuatu

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Sydney, Australia, 17 March 2015: Thousands of children in cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu are in desperate need of safe water, following the destruction of local water supplies and sanitation facilities by Tropical Cyclone Pam.

With wind gusts reaching up to 320kmph, Pam is one of the strongest cyclones ever to hit the South Pacific, leaving at least 24 people dead, thousands of homes, schools and buildings damaged or destroyed and an estimated 3,300 people displaced.

ChildFund Australia has launched an emergency appeal to help provide safe water and sanitation facilities for affected children and their families. ChildFund is partnering with Live & Learn Vanuatu, a child-focused organisation that has been operating in Vanuatu for many years, to respond to this disaster and ensure children are protected.

“One of the main concerns now is to restore clean water to help ensure the health of children in cyclone-ravaged areas,” said ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence. ‘”Contaminated water can contain diseases such as cholera, which causes severe diarrhoea and can lead to death.

“ChildFund is working with Live & Learn to restore water systems and sanitation facilities in schools and to protect and support children in Vanuatu whose lives are in upheaval as a result of this disaster.”

On Efate Island, where the capital Port Vila is located, an estimated 90 per cent of structures are either damaged or destroyed. Shefa, Tafea, Malampa and Penama are emerging as the worst impacted areas, although Shefa remains the only province declared an emergency.

Anjali Nelson, an Australian aid worker based in Port Vila, is a technical advisor with Live & Learn Vanuatu and part of the team currently conducting assessments.

“The situation in Vanuatu is unfolding,” said Ms Nelson. “While the main centre of Port Vila has been reconnected to the water supply, there are many communities in the surrounding areas that still have no access to water, and sanitation is a huge issue for these people. We expect things are even worse in other areas. Priorities may change as more information becomes known, particularly from the outer islands.”

Donations made to ChildFund Australia’s emergency appeal will help ensure restoration of safe, clean drinking water. Donations will help:

  • Reconstruct damaged water tanks to restore safe water supply.
  • Rebuild sanitation facilities to help contain disease and prevent it from spreading.
  • Provide water purification tablets as a temporary measure to prevent illness.
  • Educate children on hygiene and sanitation awareness.