Save the Children (SCF) is appealing to Kiwis to help people in Vanuatu who are suffering in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Harold.
Damaged caused by Cyclone Harold on Santo Island, Vanuatu.
It says 21 days after cyclone Harold made landfall the situation in the worst-hit parts of Vanuatu remains dire.
Save the Children NZ says it’s raising funds to support children and families who continue to be seriously affected in the aftermath of the cyclone.
SCF says a total of some 150,000 people continue to be affected in the aftermath of the cyclone, across Sanma, Malampa and Penama province with Santo (and surrounding islands) and Pentecost being the hardest-hit areas
70% of homes destroyed
Save the Children estimates that around 70% of homes have been destroyed in Sanma, and in some communities not a single home is standing.
This has forced people into crowded evacuation centres with extremely limited access to hygiene items and facilities.
Soap and hygiene items are in critically short supply as many families have lost all of their household items.
The threat of Covid-19 makes this situation even more worrying.
Leanne Harrison, of Save the Children International Programmes, says: “We know that strict hygiene practices and social distancing are crucial tools in the fight against Covid-19.
“When people have lost everything, including basics such as soap and personal hygiene products, and are forced to live in crowded conditions with others, it makes personal hygiene almost impossible.”
If virus comes, rampant transmission likely
She says: “We are concerned that if Covid-19 gets a foothold in these communities, then virus transmission could be rampant.”
Save the Children is also worried about the lack of food because gardens have been destroyed in affected areas.
Without the provision of emergency food, there’s a serious risk that malnutrition, with already high levels of stunted growth in children, could sharply increase.
Water supplies have been contaminated meaning there is little to no clean water for drinking, cooking or bathing.
This increases the likelihood of waterborne diseases that threaten the lives of children, particularly if they are already malnourished.
As pressures on communities take their toll, increased rates of domestic violence as well as violence against women, girls, and vulnerable people are being reported.
Save the Children is also requesting funding from the NZ Government to respond to increased rates of violence by providing community psychosocial support and training.
It also wants to get solar-powered lights at water sources and toilets to make these safer to use at night.
Although Vanuatu is yet to confirm a positive case of Covid-19, field staff are following Covid-19 guidelines to minimise any risk of spreading the virus if it is present but not detected.
Save the Children transports emergency supplies to children and adults in Vanuatu.
Emergency pre-positioned supplies are critically low and supply routes are severely hampered by Covid-19 travel and border restrictions.
Save the Children is working with the New Zealand and Australian governments and firms in Vanuatu to get supplies that will be distributed as quickly as possible.