[Anglican Alliance] The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) is working closely with the National Disaster Management Committee in Vanuatu, and being supported by Anglican agencies in the Pacific, after tropical cyclone Donna battered the Torres Islands at the beginning of May.
The cyclone was the strongest ever to be recorded in the southern hemisphere in the month of May. It has destroyed homes and livelihoods. Many crops have been completely destroyed, including taro, cassava and yam, which are a staple part of the islanders’ diet.
Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) reports that the Northern provinces of Vanuatu are the most affected. In particular the cyclone has devastated the Torba Province in the Anglican Diocese of Banks and Torres, where many Anglicans live.
Vanuatu’s Disaster Risk Management Coordinator Mr Fisher Young Dinh was the first to contact many affected communities by radio, and has been helping the National Disaster Management Committee to communicate with other islands and conduct initial assessments. He has been in touch with ABM and Anglican Overseas Aid to report on the extent of damage caused by the cyclone. He said that there has been significant damage to houses and gardens, with only enough food supplies to last up to two or three weeks in some communities. Water supplies have been contaminated and toilet facilities destroyed on some of the islands.
Food donations have been prepared and distributed by the Anglican church to affected communities in Vanuatu. Relief supplies, including food, hygiene kits and water purifiers, have also been sent using the Anglican Mission ship to neighbouring islands.
Islanders are busy replanting crops, but they will not be ready to harvest for another 4-5 months at least. Ongoing assistance will be needed to ensure there is enough provision.
Fortunately, ACOM have been able to respond rapidly through the provision of relief funding from ABM, Anglican Overseas Aid and Anglican Missions Board in the Pacific, and Melanesian Mission in the UK. Following ‘phase 1’ of their outreach, which includes the initial provision of relief supplies for affected communities, ACOM are preparing a ‘phase 2’ recovery plan to tackle ongoing food security and other recovery issues such as trauma counselling. They are also preparing a longer term recovery and ‘build back better’ plan.
Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance relief manager, said: “It is great to hear that the Anglican Church of Melanesia has been working so closely with the National Disaster Management Office, collecting and sharing reports from remote communities, purchasing “NDMO approved” relief items, working collaboratively on distribution. It is a credit to ACOM’s preparedness planning since cyclone Pam in 2015 that they are engaging so well.”