22 March 2015 - Despite logistical challenges posed by the impact of Tropical Cyclone Pam on small island countries in the Pacific, UN children’s agency, Unicef, is delivering essential supplies to children who need them most in Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. 

Each affected country is composed of numerous different islands that take anything from a few hours to six days to reach, by air or sea. Transporting supplies is expensive. The destruction brought about by the Category 5 cyclone wrecked infrastructure and damaged roads, making transportation and communication between and within islands difficult.  

“Thanks to Government-led assessments, more information is now available on how children are being affected by this disaster,” Unicef Pacific Representative Karen Allen says. “Unicef’s preparedness and expertise in emergencies enabled us to act swiftly, to help meet immediate life-saving needs and to support the Government and our humanitarian partners on coordination and logistics.” 

“We are now working with Government, UN and NGO partners to prevent deterioration in the health and well-being of affected children,” Ms Allen continued. “We are happy to see food and shelter distribution efforts going on by other partners, and to know that more is planned. Unicef’s responsibilities are in the areas ofwater, sanitation, hygiene, maternal and child health, nutrition, education and child protection.” 

In Vanuatu, the worst hit country, assessment reports have confirmed widespread destruction,ranging from 20 to 90 per cent devastation of houses, schools, clinics, churches and crops. At least 80 per cent of schools have been affected either through cyclone damage, or through hosting displaced people. Water is life and clean water is a critical need! 

As access to affected areas improves, Unicef is scaling up from its initial response with pre-positioned stocks. Emergency supplies have arrived in Tuvalu and Vanuatu and are on a ship bound for Kiribati, with yet more destined for Vanuatu. Unicef is drawing from regional and global stocks as well as long term agreements with suppliers in countries all over the world. However, funds are needed from donors to cover the costs of purchases and transport. 

Unicef’s pre-stocked warehouses in Suva, Fiji, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Tarawa, Kiribati and Honiara, Solomon Islands immediately dispatched water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health, education and child protection supplies worth around USD$2 million. Much the funding has come fromUnicef’s global emergency loan fund and the contingency stock will need to be replaced to be ready for the next disaster. Unicef has alsoassisted the Government of Vanuatu and WFP to plan and organise for emergency distribution centres at the Port Vila airport and in Tanna.  

Our support to children on cyclone affected islands includes: 

• In Vanuatu, prepositioned supplies including tents are at the national hospital and have been given to local partners to meet immediate people’s water supply needs. Unicef has also assisted with repairs to water systems.  

• Also in Vanuatu, forty-eight cartons of health supplies, including basic emergency health kits, Oral Rehydration Salt sachets, zinc tablets, Vitamin A tablets and de-worming tablets have arrived by air. The basic health kits will be distributed to affected islands. Some 15,000 water purification tablets were also distributed for use in evacuation centres. Relief supplies have now left the Port Vila harbour, bound by ship for Tanna, one of the worst hit islands. 

• In Tuvalu, Unicef health and WASH supplies and tarpaulins have beendelivered to Funafuti, thanks to transport by the New Zealand Government.  

• In Solomon Islands, Unicef is working with Government Ministries and NGO partners on distribution of supplies from pre-positioned WASH and health stock. 

• In Kiribati, a small amount of emergency supplies were available in Tarawa and will be distributed as the assessments are completed. More supplies will arrive in the following days.  

These emergency supplies are preventing the spread of diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus, and diarrhoea. In Etas Elang, Vanuatu,for example, new mother Liza received water for herself and her days-old son Jeremiah from Unicef last week. She went into labour a couple of days after the storm and her son was born into a community with no clean water and heavily damaged by the Cyclone. 

Unicef supported the Vanuatu Government and partners to deliver safe drinking water to communities such as Etas Elang. “I was so relieved when they brought us water,” said Liza. “I will use it to drink and I will also be able to wash my baby in clean water. I am so thankful, because without this supply, we would have had no water at all.”

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Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk