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TC Vania destroys crops and livelihoods in Tanna

UNICEF and partners responding to prevent hunger and disease
Protecting children’s development a key concern

Port Vila, Vanuatu 25 January, 2011 – An estimated 16,000 people, almost half of them children on the islands of Tanna and Erramango in Vanuatu’s Tafea Province face immediate hunger and lack of safe water following a tropical cyclone that destroyed food crops and damaged water sources.

Tropical Cyclone Vania ripped through Vanautu’s TAFEA Province on 13-14 January, pounding the islands with heavy rains and wind gusts up to 130kph.  A joint assessment by the government, UN and NGOs has revealed an almost complete destruction of crops on the islands – leaving families without food or incomes for the next six months. Damage to water systems and extensive flooding in some areas has raised concerns over access to clean water. With ground wells contaminated and health centres impacted, there is a real risk for disease outbreaks.

Reports show that the province suffered considerable damage to all crops, notably losing all banana and manioc and much of the taro and kava, the main food produce and source of income.  Parts of the province were already experiencing food shortages due to a drought earlier in the year and heightened vulnerability due to ash from Mt. Yasur volcano. In addition, a substantial number of houses were destroyed and rendered unusable.

A joint assessment mission involving the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), OCHA, UNICEF, the Vanautu Red Cross and NGOs has focused concern on food and nutrition.  As crops serve both nutritional needs and are the main source of income, the livelihoods of the population are heavily affected and their capacity to cope diminished. Water, sanitation, shelter and education are also concerns. 

UNICEF Pacific’s Emergency Response Coordinator, Hamish Weatherly said: “People were clearly fearful for their immediate future.  Villagers would walk us through their gardens which are their only sources of food and livelihoods, most totally destroyed, then lead us to a water tank, empty because a landslide had cut the pipe at its source.  They are well aware of the fact that if they fall sick, there is no medicine in their local health post to help them recover."

In response, UNICEF will work with partners to ensure the provision of clean drinking water to the most vulnerable communities on Tanna Island. Emergency medical supplies will also be provided to under-resourced health centres where an increased caseload is expected. UNICEF experts will work with the Vanuatu government to ensure that emergency food rations are nutritionally sound and meet the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly infants and young children.

In addition to working with partners to provide much needed support, UNICEF is moving proactively to protect gains made in children’s development in Tafea province. Since 2008, these islands have been the focus of intensive investment in education, health, and child protection. The province has made tangible strides in advancing children’s rights. “Without appropriate and timely support there is a real risk that these gains can be lost. Pacific communities have tremendous resilience in the face of these disasters.  But each storm and sea surge erodes their long-term development and exacerbates inequities. With climate change this is only getting worse.” UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of Planning and Policy, Samantha Cocco-Klein noted.


UNICEF is present in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information please contact:
Samantha Cocco-Klein, UNICEF Pacific, +679-323-6141,
Noreen Chambers, UNICEF Pacific, +679-330-0439 Ext 111,




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