Vanuatu Red Cross teams distribute essential relief items to communities affected by Cyclone Harold.
Photo: Vanuatu Red Cross

Suva, 22 April 2020 – As a fuller picture of the destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu begins to appear, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released an additional allocation under its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to cover urgent relief assistance in the first six months.

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold left a trail of destruction across Vanuatu in early April, affecting more than 127,0000 people, and destroying 90 per cent of housing in some areas, including Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city. On the Island of Pentecost, up to 95 per cent of houses were destroyed, and many families are still sheltering in evacuation centres.

At the time of TC Harold’s arrival, the country, which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, was already dealing with immense humanitarian challenges, including COVID-19 preparedness as well as ongoing volcanic eruptions in Tafea province and localised flooding.

“Vanuatu Red Cross Society, as an auxiliary partner to the National Disaster Management Office of the government, are experienced and were well prepared to respond to needs on several fronts,” IFRC’s Head of Country Cluster Support Team for the Pacific , Kathryn Clarkson, says.

“At the time of TC Harold, they were already providing COVID-19 awareness session and hygiene promotion in communities, and now have scaled up their extensive volunteer network throughout the islands to support the needs of people affected by TC Harold.”

In response to these challenges, on April 21, the IFRC allocated an additional CHF 657,590 from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to boost the ongoing emergency response operations of the Vanuatu Red Cross.

“This will target 5,050 families [approximately 25,250 people or 30 per cent of the affected population] with emergency shelter needs, non-food relief items, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH), health and first aid,” Ms Clarkson says.

“With restrictions on travel at the moment across the Pacific due to COVID-19, we also need to adjust to provide technical support remotely from our IFRC office in Fiji with additional delegates working remotely from New Zealand and Australia.“

This assistance will also complement other financial and in-kind assistance provided by the U.S Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.

“Vanuatu Red Cross are on the ground, and in the most affected communities, supporting in a number of ways, including collaboration with health authorities and partners, to offer health stations in evacuation centres where the existing medical facilities have been destroyed,” IFRC’s TC Harold Operations Manager, Rene Jinon says.

“By accessing relief stock on the islands, it has enabled the Vanuatu Red Cross Society to work quickly to support those who need it most,” Mr Jinon adds. “To date more than 750 standard Vanuatu Red Cross Society family kits have been provided to affected families on three of the Islands, including a shelter tool kit, two tarpaulins, kitchen sets and hygiene kits, two mosquito nets, a 20L jerry can, two sleeping mats and blankets and a solar lamp.”

IFRC’s assistance is to respond to immediate relief needs, while detailed assessments continue to be carried out for recovery needs.

 

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Media contacts

In Suva: Carl Gustav Klemmend, +679 895 8005

In Kuala Lumpur: Ellie van Baaren, +60 12 230 8451, ellie.vanbaaren@ifrc.org