The government and public of Australia must not to forget the plight of Pacific island nations which, like Vanuatu, have been hit hard by Cyclone Pam, says child rights organisation and NGO Plan International Australia.
While Cyclone Pam – possibly the strongest storm seen in living memory in the Pacific islands – wreaked havoc and has reportedly killed dozens in Vanuatu, it has also caused despair in the tiny island nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati.
“The news we are hearing from Vanuatu is deeply distressing and we are obviously working hard to do whatever we can to help in the face of this tragic disaster,” says Rohan Kent, Plan International Australia’s Disaster Manager.
“But we need also to remember that Vanuatu wasn’t the only island pounded by Cyclone Pam. Vulnerable nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu were also hit hard. Although we are not seeing the tragic scenes there that we are in Vanuatu, we are hearing of terrible news from both countries,” says Kent.
“We are very concerned about communities we have yet to hear from in both Kiribati and Tuvalu. We are hoping against hope that no one has been killed there by Cyclone Pam, but we are bracing for the worst right now.”
“It’s crucial right now that the neither the Australian government nor the people of Australia forget the people of nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu. Just like the people of Vanuatu, they are our neighbours and our friends, and they are going through an extremely tough time right now. They deserve all the support we can give,” he says.
“Kiribati – a nation of barely more than 100,000 people – saw a powerful storm surge that damaged houses and other buildings. The surge has disrupted access to clean water by contaminating wells with salt water. Also damaged are gardens and crops that people in Kiribati rely on for their daily meals and their livelihoods,” he says.
“Heavy rains and winds and the powerful king tide also dealt some significant damage to a key causeway linking the two most populated islands of Kiribati. That means that food and water supplies are running low for a lot of people,” Kent says.
“Tuvalu saw heavy flooding on Friday and into the weekend. Like Kiribati, Tuvalu has seen homes and other buildings destroyed by heavy winds and a storm surge, and many people are sheltering in the homes of relatives,” he says.
“Tuvalu has also seen essential vegetable gardens and crops washed away, and we are yet to hear from people living on some of its outer islands.”
Plan International Australia has launched a public appeal for the whole of the Pacific, raising much needed funds for our neighbours in Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and across the region.
“While we agree there needs to be a focus on Vanuatu, we would also encourage a response that is Pacific-wide given the scale of this cyclone. We can afford to focus on more than one country. Thousands of our neighbours and friends are fearing for their homes, their livelihoods and their families. Now is the time to rally around all of them and offer a helping hand.”
“And, as always in these terrible tragedies, it is children who are most at risk. They have gone through a terrifying episode no child should ever have to experience and are always the most vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster like this,” Kent says.
Australians can help children caught up in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam by giving to Plan’s Children in Crisis fund atplan.org.au
Photos of Kiribati and Tuvalu are available to download here: bit.ly/cyclonepamplan Please credit ‘Plan International Australia’.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945