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Thousands of children displaced from Ambae Island volcano in urgent need of support

© UNICEF/2017/Olul
6 year old Marvine enjoys some time with his mother, Rima. They are staying at the biggest evacuation centre on Santo, Chapuis Stadium, with some 1,226 people from their island home of Ambae.

In Vanuatu, almost 12000 people at threat from a volcano, including thousands of children, were evacuated from Ambae Island and urgently need support in the temporary evacuation centres set up on neighbouring islands.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett, said, “The most immediate concern is for these thousands of children forced from their homes to be safe and secure. Under the leadership of the Vanuatu Government, we are working to help these children access their basic needs, including clean water and sanitation in schools.”

This week, children were urgently relocated with their families from Ambae Island to safety on nearby islands. More than 3000 students, including about 2000 primary school students and 1000 secondary students, are currently out of school and need to be re-enrolled in nearby schools on Maewo, Pentecost and Santo Islands.

UNICEF is supporting the Vanuatu Government to ensure that schools are adequately supported to accommodate these additional students and their teachers, distributing tents to provide temporary learning spaces for children as well as providing hygiene and sanitation support, especially for girls. 

“Returning to school as soon as possible is essential, not only to enable these children to continue their education, but also to help children regain a sense of normalcy in their lives,” said Mr Yett.

A large number of families are sleeping in the open and need to be resettled. UNICEF is working closely with the government to meet the urgent needs of these children in temporary locations, including the provision of basic health care, water, and sanitation in the evacuation centres. UNICEF is also supporting authorities to ensure that protection needs of women and children are appropriately addressed.

Most of the families are being settled on Santo Island, with 6000 people in 45 centres in Luganville, the second biggest city in Vanuatu after Port Vila. Communities in Maewo and Pentecost islands are also hosting 2000 people each.

UNICEF has shipped 15 school tents to Santo Island to be used as temporary learning spaces for about 600 children, and 650 families will receive hygiene kits containing basic supplies, such as soap. A further 10 early childhood kits for approximately 400 young children are awaiting transport to the islands, as well as 35 additional water, sanitation and dignity kits, about 2000 pieces of soap, 100 latrine slabs, 34,000 water containers, and 2000 square metres of tarpaulin to provide shelter to the displaced families.


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 for children, visit  Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Olul, UNICEF Vanuatu Field Office, +678 24655, +678 77 666 04,

Cate Heinrich, UNICEF Pacific, +679 9925606,



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