CWS Appeal Update: 2015 Tropical Cyclone Pam

August 6, 2015


Please note the window for funding this appeal is now closed.      

Click here to read CWS’s initial appeal following Tropical Cyclone Pam


On Friday, March 13 Tropical Cyclone Pam impacted Vanuatu as a category 5 storm, causing mass destruction across the nation. An estimated 188,000 people were affected, with 90,000 houses damaged. Access to drinking water and food supplies was heavily impacted: 63 percent of rainwater harvesting structures destroyed, 70 percent of groundwater sources contaminated, and 80 percent of crops wiped out.

A state of Emergency was declared across the whole of Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam, the South Pacific’s worst tropical cyclone in recent history.

The Vanuatu’s Government’s National Disaster Management Office has led the Cyclone Pam response in close cooperation from U.N. and non-government agencies. Initially in the early stages of the response, there were concerns over the management and coordination of humanitarian activities, particularly with the influx of humanitarian agencies to the country and arrival of relief supplies. The transportation and distribution of relief items was particularly challenging in the first few months given the vast impact of the disaster across Vanuatu’s chain of islands.


The CWS appeal supported ACT Alliance partners Act for Peace and the Vanuatu Christian Council, which mobilized immediately, participated in the initial response phase and have recently entered the recovery phase of the response.

The response and recovery phase has been designed around a 12-month program with objectives to target greatest need, while working to the strengths of the VCC. Special consideration has been afforded to coordinating with the Government of Vanuatu and other responding agencies through the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team.

Initial support in the first three months of the response included rapidly assessing communities, distributing emergency supplies and establishing the first-ever church cluster working group. The cluster was implemented in coordination with the clusters established by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Assessment and Coordination, or UNDAC; the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team and the National Disaster Management Office. These assessments were essential in instructing informed distribution of immediate life saving supplies, identifying target populations to assist in rebuilding food gardens and in the provision of essential water purification units, tarpaulins and repairs to water systems.

The recovery phase of the program has commenced with a focus on food security, repairs to church evacuation centers, and training, development and strengthening church coordination for disaster preparedness.

Distributions of Relief Supplies

VCC assisted with immediate food and water distribution of government supplies to church evacuation centres and to 14 communities in Tongoa. Supplies included:

– Two thousand personal hygiene kits were distributed to South West Epi and to every community on Tongoa.

– 600 tarpaulins, donated by the cotton growers of Australia, and 15 kms of rope were shipped and then distributed to churches, schools and some households across Vanuatu including Matoso Island, Epi, Tongoa, Ambrym, Tanna, Erromango and Efate.
– Seeds and training across all 14 communities in Tongoa, Ambrym and Erromango.

– Fencing toolkits and associated chainsaw training was provided to all 14 communities in Tongoa, two communities in Ambrym and one community in Erromango after assessments identified issues with livestock destroying food gardens and preventing the establishment of new gardens after the cyclone. Chainsaws were provided to clear fallen trees from gardens and roads and to repair and replace timber fences needed to restrain pigs and cattle. Enough fencing wire, staples and fencing supplies including chain saw safety materials were provided for community households to ensure that fencing repairs commenced before planned seed distribution took place

– 25 Community water purification kits (LifeStraw brand) were distributed across Tongoa Island, and directly to Baiap community in Ambrym and Isaka community, Lapangtoa, Port Resolution and Sulphur Bay in Tanna. Each community was trained in how to assemble the kits, use the kits and maintain the kits. A further 20 water purification devices designed to attach to water tanks were installed on tanks in West Ambrym to filter acid rain, and unpalatable water. A further 80 LifeStraw water filtration units have recently arrived in Vanuatu; Act for Peace and VCC is awaiting direction from the WASH cluster to identify the most suitable location for distribution.

Programs to promote food security

Three community nurseries have been established in Erromango, Ambrym and Tongoa. To date over 10,000 seedlings benefitting over 1200 households across three provinces have been raised and shared for transplanting. Currently a monitoring and evaluation trip is being conducted on Tongoa to collect information on the success of the first seed distribution and training conducted in the response phase. A similar trip is being planned for Erromango and Ambrym in August. These trips will provide information of the success of the harvest and improvement in nutritional intake after the effects of TCP.

An urban garden has been built in Port Vila to supply and encourage the establishment of urban household food gardens. In partnership with Oxfam, a cash-for-work employment scheme was trialed to provide opportunities for vulnerable women in the community to earn an income and essential skills in nursery management and food gardens. This trial has been completed and plans are in place to continue to focus on women empowerment opportunities and training in food security.

A construction of a food security demonstration site has commenced at a secondary school in Tongoa. This nursery will provide essential food and agricultural lessons to the 90 attending students to be included in practical application of their secondary studies. All the food harvested will be used to feed the attending students and any left over to share with the school community.

A pilot food security tilapia fish project is being trialed in parallel with the Tongoa secondary school nursery. Construction of two ponds commenced in June. A subsequent tool shed and water tank have been provided in order to harvest the essential water supply for the ongoing management of the fishponds. Final rendering of the ponds took place last week. An assessment trip conducted by fisheries will take place early August when a training workshop will take place and then the ponds filled with small fish. One pond will house 80 fish and the second pond will collect the waste from the fish which will be used to fertilize the school garden nursery. This will be managed and monitored by the students and the school’s agriculture teacher.

A second demonstration site is to be constructed in Efate in late August. Recent consultation with fisheries has indicated that the original proposal of providing household tilapia kits to urban areas is less favorable than the implementation of larger scale ponds due to maintenance issues and predicted lower rainfall due to Elnino. Stock from this last pond will be used to pilot food preservation and drying techniques as part of the recovery food security-training program.

Supporting clean water

Four communities in Tanna, benefiting an estimated 180 households, have successfully had their water systems repaired after assessment confirmed damage caused from the cyclone. A technical advisor along with VCC project staff completed repairs in May to ensure the supply of quality drinking water was reinstated to the communities of Port Resolution, Sulphur Bay, Lapangtowa and Isaka. Repairs included the purchase of a new pump for Lapangtowa and pipefittings and replacement pipes, and taps in Sulphur Bay, Port Resolution and Isaka which all sustained damage from fallen trees.

The west Ambrym community of Baiap was provided with three additional water tanks to ensure adequate water provision for this community after cyclone Pam. As part of the project design additional materials were provided to build shelters that could be used for market houses whilst collecting water to keep tanks filled. These tanks were then fitted with water purification taps to ensure water was fit for consumption.

Repairing evacuation centers

Assessment identified 27 church evacuation centers that were invited to submit proposals for essential repairs to damages sustained by Cyclone Pam. Selection is underway. It is expected that 20 church evacuation centres will be repaired before November. A further training workshop on minimum building standards will be run in August before procurement of materials.


The initial overall budget for the Act for Peace program is $600,000, including program costs for food, water, non-food items, water rehabilitation and community-based disaster risk reduction programs.


Please note the window for funding this appeal is now closed. Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online, sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.