Vanuatu assessment update after Cyclone Pam

March 25, 2015

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  • While Cyclone Pam caused severe damage, our team has determined that the urgent needs of survivors are already being met. Photo: Mark Ferdig/Mercy Corps

Less than two weeks ago, a violent cyclone struck the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, supporters like you allowed us to get on the ground quickly and assess the urgent needs of people in the affected area.

We deployed a small team of emergency responders to Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam to assess the damage and determine if Mercy Corps’ expertise was needed in the recovery effort. We don’t have an established presence in Vanuatu, but our team was among the first outside responders to arrive following the cyclone.

“What we’ve seen on the ground here in Vanuatu is as serious as any storm damage I have observed,” said Mark Ferdig, Senior Team Leader of Mercy Corps’ Strategic Response and Global Emergency (SRGE) Team — who also responded to needs after Typhoon Haiyan. “As far as I could see, all the vegetation and housing looked like someone walked through with hatchet, hacking and chopping.”

The disaster was the worst storm to make landfall here, and it left approximately 160,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. Homes and businesses were destroyed and people on the island endured powerful winds, torrential rain and storm swells. But the resilient nation is already starting to recover thanks to strong local and international support.

During the assessment, our team evaluated the storm’s damage, the risks faced by survivors, and the level of response already in progress by the local government and other partners. It was important that the team determine if there were any gaps in immediate relief where Mercy Corps’ expertise could be of significant value.

While the storm’s damage was severe, we determined that the immediate response by the government and international partners is comprehensive — the needs of survivors are already being met, so our immediate role in the relief effort is not required.

“This is a place that knows cyclones, because unfortunately their homes lie in the path of some of the world’s fiercest storms,” said Ferdig. “So the people know what to do. The government knows how to get the recovery work done. And they have excellent support from their trusted networks of international partners.”

The local government is in control of the situation and is working with strong support from the United Nations and other international relief agencies, many that have long-term operations and experience in Vanuatu.

“I feel good knowing that Mercy Corps was here to understand the situation up close – and confident that the people of Vanuatu will receive the assistance they require to recover from Cyclone Pam and rebuild their lives,” said Ferdig.

Mercy Corps has responded to almost every global emergency in the last 20 years, bringing lifesaving aid to survivors after natural disasters like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Haiti Earthquake, and Typhoon Haiyan.

In a time of unprecedented crises and disasters all around the world, we must make smart decisions to ensure that urgent needs are met and lives are saved, particularly in areas where the overall humanitarian response is limited.

Thanks to our supporters, we are responding to many humanitarian crises at once, helping people survive in and around Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Liberia, and CAR. This month, we launched a large emergency response in Ukraine, becoming one of the few organizations to help families in the eastern conflict-affected region.

Learn more about how we’re protecting the most vulnerable people in Ukraine and around the world on our emergency response page ▸

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