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Fears for children as cyclones and earthquake devastate Vanuatu

Within days of each other, Vanuatu experienced back-to-back cyclones and a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, destroying homes, livelihoods, infrastructure and communications.

​Acting Country Director for Save The Children, Jack French told Pacific Mornings that while Ni-Vanuatu have banded together to support one another, attention is turning towards the next generation having to deal with harsher weather occurrences.

“Communities and families in Vanuatu have shown tremendous courage this past week. They’ve been able to shelter children, navigating them through the cyclone's social impacts and keeping them safe from harm.

"But it just adds to the feeling of vulnerability for children and the expectation that they must adapt to this continuing increase of disasters.”

​Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office reports more than 250,000 people have been impacted and half of those are children.

French says power is out in Port Vila and for surrounding areas and water is scarce. 

“We don’t really know the full extent of the impact across the Island groups - so we’re hoping to reach more children and families this week.”

Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, says Aotearoa is also sending the help of a seven member team of disaster management experts from Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s Urban Search and Rescue, the New Zealand Defence Force and MFAT.

“This initial package of assistance includes a financial contribution of $150,000 to allow the New Zealand High Commission to respond rapidly to requests from the Government of Vanuatu.”

Mahuta says Aotearoa New Zealand’s response will not affect the Cyclone Gabrielle response and recovery which still remains top priority.

A ni-Vanuatu academic at Otago University has not been able to make immediate contact with her family.

Leina Isno says it's chaotic in Port Vila and thanks to the social media she was able to receive some good news.

“I have not heard from my family, we’ve got no power and no network. Through social media I got through to my extended family and they've reassured me that nobody has had any injuries or has passed.”

​​​Support is being offered with those in evacuation centres receiving hygiene kits, establishments of safe spaces for children as well as receiving food and water. ​​​

Save the Children Australia has also established a donation page​ where whānau from Aotearoa can directly help cyclone-affected Ni-Vanuatu.

French says this will support the contribution to the Government’s response plan, help to reopen schools, rebuild homes and help communities to re-establish their livelihoods.

Photo credit Vanuatu Red Cross