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UNICEF education assistance to reach 30,000 affected school-aged children in Vanuatu but big challenges remain.

© UNICEF Pacific
Former students of St Joseph’s Primary School attempt to clean up damage to classrooms from Cyclone Pam

Port Vila, 30 March 2015 – As Vanuatu’s schools officially reopen UNICEF and its partners are supporting the Government of Vanuatu to provide assistance to 30,000 school-aged children from early childhood to secondary school level who have been affected by Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam. 

Early assessment data suggests that 50 per cent of the schools in Tafea, Torba, Penama, Malampa and Shefa provinces suffered damage to infrastructure, facilities and resources. Of the 400 schools affected – including Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), primary and secondary schools – 250 suffered damage to infrastructure, facilities and resources. 

UNICEF, in collaboration with the Government of Vanuatu and partners such as Save the Children, is providing urgent assistance to schools with provision of school education and recreation supplies, tents for use as temporary classrooms and school kits for children that will provide temporary relief and support teachers and students alike to resume classes. Initial shipments have already reached children in badly-affected areas such as the Shepherd Islands and Efate Island with futher supplies en route to affected communities across the country. 

However, as many schools reopen and children across Vanuatu return to classes, some will have to wait much longer to resume their studies. Children like Joyleen (16) from Ifira Island will experience delays of up to two months before her completely destroyed school reopens and, even in communities where schools have sustained partial damage, the number of children returning to school is low. 

Catherine Warsal, Deputy Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School on Efate Island reported today that just 170 of her 330 students had returned to school for their first day back. “I am worried about those who haven’t returned, it’s likely that their family homes have been destroyed and they are unable to return. The children like school and love coming so we hope they will return soon.” 

On badly-affected Tanna Island, the School Principal of Lenakel Presbyterian College Mr Shim George is facing an uphill battle to resume classes. Six of 10 classrooms were destroyed, as well as the dining room, boys’ dormitories and teacher’s quarters. All learning resources have been damaged. “For us it will take some time before we recover and return to normal. For the students it will affect them a lot, especially final year students who have important exams. We would like to restart their education as soon as possible, somehow, somewhere, so they are not so badly affected.”

UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen adds “It is critically important for children to return to school, even if it is a temporary location or facility, immediately after an emergency because schools keep children safe from harm, minimum disruption to learning enables them to progress as expected to exams, and the school day gives them a sense of normalcy and stability that helps them to psychologically recover.” 

UNICEF is also sending ‘back to school’ back packs containing school supplies to children in cyclone-affected Tuvalu, an archipelago nation made up of nine islands, where a state of emergency is also in place following tidal surges caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam that affected the northern islands.

“Often the cost of replacing school supplies is too much for a family to cover when their homes, possessions and livelihoods have been damaged or destroyed,” said Dr. Allen. These kits facilitate children’s return to school and provide a reminder that education should remain a top priority for affected students and their families even in the face of immense challenges.”

Over the next few weeks, UNICEF will work closely with targeted schools as part of nationwide efforts in Vanuatu to ensure that all affected children in countries affected by Cyclone Pam are able to resume their studies.  


Donate now to help us reach children in Vanuatu: 

Interviews are available with UNICEF staff working on the emergency response to Cyclone Pam.

Photos and video footage

Previous press releases, photos, videos and situation reports can be downloaded here:

Latest stories, including quotes from staff on the ground, here: 


UNICEF promotes 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 Pacific works with 14 Pacific island countries and territories, which are home to 2.3 million people, including 1.2 million children and young people. These people are spread out across 660 islands and atolls inside 17.2 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean, an area comparable to the combined size of the United States of America and Canada. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For further information, please contact:

Alice Clements (Vanuatu), Tel: +678 546 7132, 

Andrew Brown (Bangkok), Tel: + 66 2 356 9407,

Rose Foley (New York), Tel: +1 917 340 2582, 

PLS NOTE: Pictures can be found here 

[caption “Former students of St Joseph’s Primary School attempt to clean up damage to classrooms from Cyclone Pam”] 

The Principal from Tanna was interviewed last week. All content is here:



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