The Australian government has announced that it will be sending aid assistance to the neighbouring islands of Vanuatu following the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam, it was announced on Saturday. Speaking to the media, the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop announced that her government would be giving assistance worth $5 million to the South Pacific archipelago. Minister Bishop added that the bulk of the money would be given to the various non-governmental organisations operating in Australia like the Red Cross and other UN partners to spearhead the provision of aid. She added that they would be sending a number of personnel in the form of humanitarian, military, medical, consular and natural disaster experts with supplies to provide support for up to 5,000 people in the form of water, sanitation and shelter.
The islands of Vanuatu have been hardest hit by the tropical cyclone and as far as reports could be obtained on the situation, there are many places that could not be reached, raising fears that the death toll of eight that has been confirmed could just be the tip of the iceberg. Further reports have revealed that power lines are down in all places and that there is no means of communication leading to the conclusion that the situation may be worse than it appears at the moment.
Speaking on Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme, a senior cabinet minister in the Vanuatu Cabinet, Ralph Regenvanu said that the damage that had been caused by the Tropical Cyclone Pam was very extensive and that his government would need all the assistance it could get in order to be able to make it past this tragedy. He added that, “This is the time of most need, and we’re going to need a lot of assistance, so we’re pretty much counting on our development partners to come forward now with financial assistance and other assistance, because we can’t get through this on our own.” Mr Regenvanu also told the Pacific Beat programme that the big problem his country was facing at the moment was the lack of power, communication as well as medical supplies. “There’s going to be a very severe long-term effect … the fact that it hit the capital … the financial cost is going to be huge,” he lamented.
Australia’s Centre for Disaster Preparedness has also indicated its willingness to be provide assistance to the people of Vanuatu. Its director, Matthew Harper said that two teams would be going to the island to start helping those in need. He said that one team would focus on medical capability and these would provide immediate resuscitation and treatment of persons in hospitals while a rapid assessment team would look at everything from what type of disease might be starting from a community health perspective, all the way through to what type of injuries are in the community.