UNICEF Regional Director visits Tanna and meets children affected by TC Pam
PORT VILA, 04 June 2015 – Children recovering from the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam and local authorities told their stories to Daniel Toole, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, during Mr. Toole’s visit to Tanna Island in Vanuatu at the end of May.
Mr. Toole spent two days on Tanna speaking to survivors and assessing the impact of UNICEF’s work on the ground to support local communities recovery efforts after the Tropical Cyclone.
As part of this, he met with the Secretary General, as well as the Secretary of the Council of Chiefs, and visited Lowanatom School, host to a recent UNICEF-supported birth registration campaign, King’s Cross School, Lenekal Hospital and UNICEF’s ‘Water for Life’ project in Middle Bush.
Even though it was a Saturday, the children of King’s Cross School turned out en masse, welcoming the UNICEF delegation with a song, a skit, stories and drawings about the Cyclone.
“Thank you very much for sharing your feelings and thoughts - it was certainly a terrible experience. It is very encouraging to see you back at school. You must keep going to school and learn a lot, so you can become a teacher, doctor, pilot, or anything you want to be,” Mr. Toole said to the children.
During his meeting with the Secretary General and the Secretary of the Council of Chiefs, Mr. Toole listened to their words of appreciation and to the challenges still facing the people of Tanna.
The people of Tanna have come a long way since Tropical Cyclone Pam, and leaders stressed that helping people with the means to restore livelihoods is a priority.
Mr. Toole also heard that, while the situation on the island has vastly improved since the cyclone, there are still emergency needs in terms of water access, sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF and other agencies are working in partnership with the Government of Vanuatu to overcome these challenges as quickly as possible so that children can again be healthy and safe.
To date, interventions by UNICEF and its partners provided 54,864 people, including women and children, with access to sufficient clean water. An additional 2,431 children at primary schools have benefited, through the repairs of water supply facilities and sanitation improvements.
More than 90% of children in all affected areas were able to return to primary education as UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Training provided temporary tents, school equipment and supplies to teachers. The driver behind getting children back to school was the successful early distribution of 17,446 school bags to primary school children.
24,336 children were vaccinated against measles, through a joint UNICEF/Ministry of Health programme. This is a significant result at a time when the cyclone destroyed much of the cold chain equipment.
Over the next period, UNICEF will support the government in its plans to build-back-better so that spaces utilised by children are disaster resistant.
The immediate priority of the team in Vanuatu is to ensure that children are able to access good quality basic services that were destroyed by the cyclone.
The medium term focuses on solving many of the problems that were existing before the cyclone, such as access to water in remote islands, improvement of household sanitation facilities and better utilisation of solar power in the health system.
The stories of survival and renewal told to Mr. Toole during his visit to Vanuatu illustrate how strong partnerships between government and civil society can contribute to improving children’s lives in meaningful ways, even when their lives have been dramatically impacted by natural disasters.
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. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicefpacific.org
For further information, please contact:
Donna Hoerder, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Pacific, Suva, Fiji: Phone +679 3236 111 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org