Vanuatu’s cyclone survivors desperate for food and water

Relief groups struggled to get supplies to residents living in Vanuatu’s cyclone-ravaged outer islands on Thursday, as survivors grew desperate for food and water five days after the fierce storm flattened villages across the South Pacific nation. With power, phones and Internet still down across much of the country, officials faced logistical headaches in sorting out where to send supplies, particularly in Tanna Island, which was hit hard by Cyclone Pam’s 270 kilometre per hour winds. Tanna’s water towers were knocked over by the storm and wells built close to the shore were contaminated, so aid groups have been bringing in water purification tablets.

Everyone in Tanna and other islands in the south, they really live subsistence lives, so they grow what they need for a short period. … And the reality is that much of that would have been washed away by this storm.

Tom Perry, spokesman for CARE Australia

Vanuatu’s government has hit out at aid groups over a lack of coordination which it said cost precious time getting help to those in need. The scathing comments came as Agriculture Minister David Tosul warned that the struggling subsistence-based country would run out of food in less than a week, pleading for rice, biscuits, seeds, tinned protein and cash to help ship them in. UNICEF estimates that nearly 5,000 people across Vanuatu have no access to drinking water. Thousands of people remained homeless, with more than 3,300 still sheltering in evacuation centers on the main island of Efate and in the provinces of Torba and Penama, according to the UN.