Tropical Cyclone Harold leaves destruction in its wake
UNICEF and partners providing vital support for children and families in Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
Tropical Cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction after making landfall as a category 5 storm in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on 6 April, before striking the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga. Thousands of children remain in urgent need in the aftermath of the cyclone, which destroyed homes, schools, medical facilities, as well as causing damage to food crops and water supplies.
Vanuatu was the most affected, with more than a third of the population and more than 20,000 children living in the worst-affected areas. In Sanma Province alone, about 90 per cent of the population lost their homes and 60 per cent of schools were damaged as 200-kph winds lashed the area.
Health services in Vanuatu, difficult to reach under normal conditions with geographical and logistical challenges, are even harder to access following the destruction of roads and damage to health facilities. Essential medicines and other equipment were also damaged. Some health personnel were injured, and some lost their homes.
How UNICEF is helping
UNICEF has provided essential water, sanitation and hygiene items including soap, water containers and buckets to ensure children and families have access to clean drinking water with the majority of water infrastructure now destroyed. Emergency health and midwifery kits including basic drugs, medical supplies and equipment have also been delivered to assist the health sector provide critical medical care.
With support from both the Government of Australia and the European Union to provide air transport for critically needed supplies, UNICEF continues to work in partnership with the Pacific governments to provide assistance to support relief efforts and reach those children most vulnerable after the disaster.
UNICEF has been transporting supplies by boat to reach some communities, including to those on Santo and Pentecost, two of the most affected islands in Vanuatu.
In addition, UNICEF continues to support communities by providing school-in-boxes and early childhood development kits including books, pencils and materials to support learning needs and help children to regain a sense of normalcy as soon as possible after the disaster. Tents and tarpaulins provided to communities will also assist in restarting children’s learning and provide families with emergency shelter.
At Bombua Junior Secondary School in Vanuatu, children didn’t have a chance to collect all their belongings before Tropical Cyclone Harold hit. Mattresses, suitcases, clothes and other personal items are now scattered around the remains of the dormitories at the school.
Responding during COVID-19
The global COVID-19 pandemic, including border closures and other travel restrictions, makes the response to the cyclone particularly challenging. Even in normal times, travel and logistics across the vast Pacific region are difficult, a challenge now compounded by the restrictions imposed by the response to COVID-19.