The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Shelter a priority in response to Cyclone Pam - Vanuatu Bishop

Event date: 
17 Mar 2015

As Caritas staff members head for Vanuatu to help coordinate humanitarian relief efforts after Cyclone Pam, reports are coming in from partners on the ground that shelter continues to be one of the biggest needs.

Up to 90 percent of buildings on one of Vanuatu's main islands have been destroyed or damaged, and there is also an urgent need for food and clean water in the capital, Port Vila, especially in the evacuation centres.

"In Port Vila the destruction is everywhere, and there's no news from anyone around the islands yet," says the Bishop of Port Vila, John Bosco Baremes SM from the devastated capital.

"There's just no shelter, with so much having been blown away, and people will need somewhere to shelter while they rebuild."

Caritas Oceania agencies, including Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and Caritas Australia are leading a combined Caritas response helping to provide people in evacuation centres with food, water and other necessities. The Diocese of Port Vila has also established a Disaster Committee to assess damage and plan a response, and Caritas partners report that a number of churches are being used as evacuation centres.

“In emergency situations such as this, the Church plays a valuable part in providing assistance to the most vulnerable communities," says Mark Mitchell, Humanitarian Programmes Coordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

Along with Caritas Australia counterpart Stephanie Lalor, Mr Mitchell has worked with the Diocese on development and emergency preparedness projects, and they will arrive in Port Vila on Wednesday to help coordinate humanitarian relief efforts.

Caritas organisations from around the world have also pledged their help and Caritas is appealing to the public for donations. An initial $20,000 has been pledged by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand through the Pacific Cyclone Relief Fund.

In Rome, Pope Francis pledged his “solidarity with the people of Vanuatu...I pray for the dead, the injured and the homeless."

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