An island nation in the South Pacific Ocean is struggling to recuperate after three natural disasters hit in the span of a few weeks. The latest, Super Cyclone Pam, hit the Vanuatu islands Saturday and residents are in desperate need of basic necessities and assistance. The category five storm is one of the worst disasters to ever strike the region.
Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale asked for international support for the nation's "unprecedented damages" Sunday, telling the AFP, "The humanitarian need is immediate; we need it right now." The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs called the disaster "extremely destructive," with very damaging winds, storm surges, and flooding in most of the country. The UN has confirmed 11 fatalities, but that number is expected to rise as relief efforts continue.
President Lonsdale told BBC that more than 90 percent of buildings in Vanuatu were destroyed in the cyclone, leaving thousands of people displaced. He believes climate change contributed to the storm, saying "We see the level of sea rise… The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected." Because communications are down, some of Vanuatu's outlying islands have yet to be reached, so the full extent of the damage is unknown. The UN estimates that 19,000 households are in need of food assistance and 70,000 school-age children are being affected by damage to the area's schools.
It will be very difficult for Vanuatu to rebuild after this disaster, as the UN considers it one of the world's least developed countries. Governments and aid organizations from numerous countries, including the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia, have donated money to relief efforts on the islands. If you want to personally contribute, check out these organizations that are accepting donations for Vanuatu.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is accepting donations to help the children affected by the disaster. The UNICEF website says that the organization has staff on in the ground in Vanuatu assisting families and children and claims that 90.2 cents of every dollar goes toward helping children.
New Zealand's Red Cross is sending emergency supplies to Vanuatu, including water, shelter kits, and first aid, and is seeking donations to continue doing so. The website specifies that 25 New Zealand dollars (about $18 USD) could provide shelter and relief items, 65 New Zealand dollars ($48 USD) could buy first aid supplies, and 200 New Zealand dollars ($146 USD) could help a community obtain clean drinking water.
Oxfam Australia is currently accepting donations to help victims in Vanuatu as well. The organization's website also clarifies what certain sums can help purchase, including that 99 Australian dollars (about $75 USD) can provide 11 families with life-saving water kits with disinfection tools.