[ACNS, by Staff Writer] The Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the Anglican Church of Melanesia and has activated its Emergency Operations Centre in response to Cyclone Harold, which has caused severe devastation across the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga.
In a Good Friday message from the Bishop of the Diocese of Central Vanuatu and New Caledonia, James Tama, announced that the Emergency Operations Centre had been activated in order to respond to the growing needs of individual parishioners, parishes and communities.
In Vanuatu alone, nearly 160,000 are in need of assistance. The land has been stripped of crops and homes, leaving thousands in need of shelter, water and food. The Red Cross has described the situation as “catastrophic”.
The Category 5 Cyclone has come at a time where many countries in the Pacific Islands are on strict lockdown due to Covid-19. Most countries in the Pacific Islands have been praised for their early response to the pandemic, with many remaining virus-free so far.
It is feared that Vanuatu’s efforts to keep Covid-19 out will delay the usual international efforts to offer relief. Supply routes are damaged, and many people will have to move into evacuation centres where practicing social distancing will be almost impossible. The country has maintained that foreigners will not be allowed entry out of fear that the virus could be introduced, and all humanitarian cargo will have to undergo strict health protocols before being offloaded. However, the United Nations has already released $2.5 million USD (approximately £2 million GBP) from its emergency humanitarian fund to help Vanuatu.
Bishop Tama said that the diocese already had working parties who have started clearing the debris throughout each parish, and that clergy are deploying as members of the Health Cluster Emergency Medical Team to provide Covid-19 awareness and spiritual encouragement to affected communities and people living with disabilities.
Bishop Tama said: “I call on all partners of the Anglican Church and the Anglican Community at large to assist us in this time of great need. So that we may rebuild, we may build back our communities and we may resume the mission of the church.” He also said that he was also in contact with the Vanuatu Council of Churches to ensure that they are working together to respond to the disaster.
The Anglican Alliance is connecting with agencies and churches in the region in order to support them in any way they can.
Bishop Tama ended his Good Friday message by saying: “The trees and gardens may be destroyed, but our spirit remains intact. Our homes and families may be struggling but our faith and our Church remain standing.”