Two years ago, a community on the outskirts of Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, was not only hit by Cyclone Pam but also with flooding since the community is situated by a river.
The majority of the community’s population of 136 people sheltered in evacuation centres during Cyclone Pam.
For community elder Meseb Homen, aged 62, the extent of the damage caused by the cyclone and flood is something he will never forget.
“I remembered the morning after Pam I came back and saw water everywhere, some houses flattened and as the day went by the water became mud and covered water wells, houses and gardens,” he said.
The damage were not only caused by winds but the river level rose and covered everything.
He said a few hours before Cyclone Pam struck, five men in the community had agreed not to evacuate for fear of looters.
“As the wind blew strong and the water level rose, the men took refuge in a damaged underground well. Thankfully they survived,” Mr Homen said.
This underground well saved five lives during Cyclone Pam
Kathleen John, 43 year old mother of six, took refuge with others from the community at a catholic church ten kilometres away. But her children still needed to be fed so she had to return to the community to find food.
“The distance did not matter as our children needed food and since the roads were blocked by trees, electrical posts and iron sheets, we walked for about two hours to reach home.
“We had to jump over and go under trees, swim across a rushing river to get food in our garden. The mud covered our garden, we have to dug out mud before getting cassava or bananas and get back to our village so we could find food for our children who were back at the evacuation centre,” shared Mrs John.
Mrs John and other women walked for about ten kilometers from the evacuation center to their community and had to swim across a rushing river to access food for their children after the cyclone.
The men in the community dug mud out of the water wells and after three weeks in the evacuation centres, Mrs John and the rest of the community returned to their homes where they faced the challenge of accessing clean water.
Wells, including this one, were covered by mud during Cyclone Pam
“Twenty-five litre containers of drinking water were provided by the Vanuatu Police Force often and we used well water to wash and cook. Sometimes my children would accidentally drink the well water and get diarrhoea. This happened quite a bit for several months after Cyclone Pam”, she said.
Today things have changed. World Vision by provided a 6000 litre rainwater tank for the community.
Hemen shared that this water tank is a blessing for the community
“My kids, especially my youngest daughter May, no longer drink water from the well and are very healthy, the diarrhoea has decreased.” said Mrs John.
May now drinks rain water from the tank provided by World Vision
May, aged 7, enjoys playing with her friends and likes going to school. “I love to sing the alphabet song and read.”
World Vision was contracted by the Government of Vanuatu to supply the water tank with the support of the Government of New Zealand and the generous support by private donations from Australia and New Zealand.