How to Send Emergency Relief After Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu

Children of Vanuatu

Children of Efate Island, Vanuatu

For the last few days, I’ve been following relief efforts after Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and the devastation seems incredibly horrible. It’s not that the residents of the country of Vanuatu, especially those who live in the capital of Efate island, Port Vila, have not dealt with cyclones and tsunamis in the past, but it’s that many people did not have time or lacked resources to prepare for the hit. Most of the Vanuatu people whom I had the extreme pleasure of meeting last year live very simply, just like their grandparents and their grandparents’ grandparents; they hand down customs from one generation to the next. The kids might listen to an old iPOD shuffle but they can also zip up a coconut tree in 3 seconds flat.

Vanuatu is a country in the South Pacific made up of 83 islands, mostly uninhabited. Some villages do not have electricity, and if they do, they don’t get television reception. The people who live there might have small TVs but they watch videos. And many people live in thatched huts, put together by straw, sticks and tin; some have dirt floors. Their outside kitchen is typically chicken wire attached to four sticks arranged in a square and covered by a piece of corrugated steel as the roof. The oven is a fire on the ground inside a circle of rocks.

Downtown Port Vila

Downtown Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu 2014

I imagine much of the problem is fresh water, second to food at this point since the people of Vanuatu tend to subsist on what they grow. They fish, of course, but with the waters churned and strong winds blowing, fishing is probably not the best right at the moment. Chickens left running about probably did not survive. Any type of food that grows underground most likely is what they have left, and they can eat fruit blown off the trees if it is not completely bashed.

Port Vila, which was hit really hard by a Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, a category 5 storm, has a lot of concrete structures where many residents sought cover, but I imagine the entire shoreline of tents and shops is wiped out. I captured one of my first Ingress portals in Port Vila in that shopping center, where WiFi was prevalent only in a tiny corner of it. Below you can see a video of a street musician in Port Villa:

The not-so-surprising thing in all of this Cyclone Pam destruction at Vanuatu is how quickly the Australian government responded. Efate Island is about 1,100 miles northeast of Brisbane, and the Aussies managed to land at the closed airport to bring in much needed supplies and relief. You compare that to the devastation when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and how our own United States government could not bring aid to those suffering for 4 solid days. There was no excuse for that, and it still breaks my heart when I think about it.

If you’d like to make a donation to bring relief to the survivors of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, I suggest Care International. You can donate online securely.

Subscribe to Elizabeth Weintraub\'s Blog via email

Sorry we are experiencing system issues. Please try again.