Vanuatu Daily News Digest | ABC reports Pam in Australia

Vanuatu’s government has launched a flash appeal to help thousands of people in urgent need of humanitarian aid in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

Jotham Napat, chairman of the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC), said more than 166,000 people had been affected by the cyclone, with 110,000 left without access to safe drinking water.

He told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat his country would need $US29.9 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis over the next three months.

"Vanuatu’s prime minister has launched a flash appeal asking the international community for help, in addition to what has already been provided," Mr Napat said.

"Over 75,000 people are in need of emergency shelter; around 15,000 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, and many people have also lost household goods.

"The cyclone damaged around 63 per cent of the health facilities and has disrupted health service delivery.

"The appeal is also focusing on those key areas and we are hoping that different agencies, the international communities will support this appeal in order for us to actually assist our people."

UN seeks long-term aid pledges for Vanuatu

International aid has been pouring into Vanuatu in the 10 days since Cyclone Pam devastated the country, but the United Nations also said more was needed.

UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team leader Sebastian Rhodes Stampa said more than $US10 million in contributions from donors had been recorded.

Mr Rhodes Stampa said that figure did not include bilateral contributions from close neighbours like Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

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He told Pacific Beat the Vanuatu government’s flash appeal would give donors a better idea of what would be required over the coming months.

"This is for a global audience, although of course we’re looking at regional partners, friends of Vanuatu particularly, to come forward as they have already done," he said.

"Past the initial immediate aid relief operation, we’re looking to them to make a commitment to their partners in Vanuatu over a longer time period to meet all of the critical needs.

"It will be targeted to the provinces and the islands to meet the greatest needs first.

"We’ll be looking specifically at meeting water, sanitation and hygiene requirements."

Mr Rhodes Stampa said emergency food and shelter and the restoration of basic health provisions on even the remotest of islands would be a priority.

"But also, it’s critical that we get the children back in school, we return communities to a sense of normality as soon as possible, as well as providing for their most urgent needs," he said.

"We know that donors will receive this quite well, we’ve had a lot of interest and we expect the financial contributions to start ramping up slightly in the next 24 to 48 hours.

"And of course we count on the generosity of all of the donor nations around the world to support the people of Vanuatu."

Aid needed for several months: World Food Program

The UN’s World Food Program said some of the worst affected cyclone victims might need ongoing help for several months.

The Vanuatu government is aiming to provide immediate food assistance to tens of thousands of people with the World Food Program taking a leading role in supplying the food aid.

Spokeswoman Victoria Cavanagh said experts are determining where to direct the help.

"Right now, we have our food security experts on the ground, helping to understand the specific needs of vulnerable groups like mothers and young children with urgent nutritional needs, people relying on subsistence farming, that sort of thing," she said.

The UN agency is supplementing government food packages with rice and biscuits fortified with vitamins and minerals and it expects to provide assistance for several months for those who were most severely affected by the storm.

Food packages have been dispatched from Port Vila to six priority islands in Shefa Province and to Tanna Island in Tafea Province.

Aid workers said they are now trying to get emergency aid to isolated islands where airstrips, ports and communications have been extensively damaged.

France, Australia and New Zealand have sent ships and helicopters to help in the relief effort.