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© Navin Pal/UNICEF Pacific
Navin Pal UNICEF Pacific Emergency Supply and logistics Assistant hands over water and sanitation kit to one of the village chiefs in Tanna.

UNICEF focuses attention on water in Tanna

Cyclone Vania victims receive help to access safe drinking water

PORT VILA, VANUATU, 9 FEBRUARY 2011–Approximately 4,000 people in the hardest hit communities of Vanuatu’s Tafea Province, following the passage of tropical cyclone Vania last month, now have access to safe drinking water.

UNICEF Pacific’s field office in Vanuatu early this month supplied more than 700 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits to 738 families in 40 villages in the Middlebush area of Tanna Island. The Middlebush area suffered significant flooding that contaminated streams and open water sources from which people collect their water.

An initial joint multi-sector rapid assessment carried out by the Tafea Provincial authorities with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), UNICEF, the Vanuatu Red Cross and NGOs indicated that poor sanitation practices and flooding of latrines have contaminated surface water in many areas posing the risk of disease outbreak. Many communities are reporting an increase in diarrohoea cases.

“UNICEF is supporting families in the most vulnerable areas to access clean and safe drinking water through the provision of water containers, water purification tablets, soaps and hygiene promotion material”, said Hamish Weatherly, UNICEF Pacific’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator.

In stepping up the WASH response, UNICEF as the Cluster Lead agency for the WASH Cluster Group is working closely with the group’s members - Ministry of Health (MoH), Rural Water Supply, Vanuatu Red Cross, UNICEF, French Red Cross, Vanuatu Red Cross, WHO, ADRA, World Vision and Oxfam – to coordinate WASH related activities that will support and complement the Government’s efforts.

UNICEF is providing financial support to local water technicians to support two teams carry out a detailed assessment of water infrastructure in worst hit areas of Tanna and that is anticipated to be completed by the end of this week. Red Cross has already initiated an assessment across Erromango Island and ADRA is working with communities in northern Tanna to repair and improve water supply systems.

While the focus is on the WASH response, UNICEF is also supporting a holistic approach to the emergency response, ensuring that nutrition, health, education and protection are also considered.

To support the under resourced local health system to deal with increased pressure over the coming months as nutritional stress and poor WASH conditions set in, UNICEF has provided four basic emergency health kits enough to cover a population of 40,000 people for up to three months and distributed 4,000 sachets of Oral Rehydration Salt for infants and young children suffering from diarrhea.

Following significant damage to food crops that will take communities up to six months to recover from, UNICEF is working with NDMO to provide nutritional advice on potential food distribution exercises. UNICEF will also work with WHO and MoH to strengthen provincial health surveillance systems to ensure any spike in disease or nutritional stress is quickly identified and can be acted upon.

UNICEF is also working closely with the Education in Emergencies Unit in the Ministry of Education to follow up on school repairs and ensure that children’s education is not impacted by the cyclone.

Beyond the immediate response, UNICEF has a long term commitment to Tafea province and has been working with the local government and communities since 2008 to strengthen the fulfillment of children’s rights. UNICEF’s programmes in health, WASH, education and protection will continue and help contribute to the recovery.

Tropical cyclone Vania is the fourth in a series of natural disasters – drought, volcanic eruption and tsunami - to hit the province over the past 12 months. Many communities, still recovering from the cumulative effect of these disasters, have been made more vulnerable with the destruction caused by cyclone Tania.

“Given Vanuatu’s, and particularly Tafea Province’s vulnerability to natural disasters, it is critical that development partners work to strengthen communities’ preparedness and response capacities. Without this investment, real long-term progress will be eroded by each successive disaster. With climate change increasing the frequency of some types of natural disasters, this is only becoming more urgent,” UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of Policy, Advocacy, Planning and Evaluation Ms Samantha Coco-Klein stressed.



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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