The Anglican Church of Melanesia has been working collaboratively with the National Disaster Management Office in Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Donna. Damage and needs assessments have been made and there is now a big effort involving the shipment and delivery of relief supplies and donations. The ACOM flag ship MV Southern Cross is expected to have arrived in Torres Islands on the 18th May bringing supplies to meet the main need for precooked food and water.
The Cyclone hit hardest in the northern most islands of Vanuatu. A recent report produced after the Bishop of Temotu, met with the Disaster Committee of the Diocese of Temotu outlines some of the effects of the Cyclone.
The damages vary in severity from island to island. Here below are some of the effects (as advised in the report) from the island of Tikopia, which was closest to the eye of the Cyclonic wind resulting in severe damage to all basic areas of livelihood.
- Farmers in these islands farm in both in low lying coastal fringes and on the fertile hill sides. Mix garden farming is the traditional method for growing crops.
- Agriculture was totally destroyed. The mix garden agriculture which usually contains fruit and nuts, root crops and traditional greens was damaged. Such agriculture will take time to reorganize and replanted.
- The natural forest from which the people derive many of their livelihoods has been battered and torn to pieces. Water pipes were uprooted with roots of trees.
- The main traditional staple, the swamp taro was not spared. The violent storm surges that rolled up the coastal farm lands left their mark, killing everything in its path and leaving the land saturated with salt which will take months of rain to wash away. The effect of the wind, rain followed by the scorching heat of the sun will have adverse effects on the tubers which will eventually cause rotting of the tubers.
- This year’s breadfruit crop which would be harvested in June and would have been processed and stored for use later have now been severely damaged putting many people in all islands at high risk of hunger. People are busy replanting, however the crops will not be ready for harvest for 5 to 6 months. For some fruit crops it will take a few years to recover especially the fruit trees.
- Efforts are already being made to replant kumara and cassava in the fertile sandy loams on Tikopia Island, but this crop will take 4-5 months before it ready to harvest.
- Many thatch roof houses were damaged by the wind and will need to be repaired or rebuild. Families are struggling trying to put up shelters with scarce materials. Some have put up temporary covers out of coconut fronds and are sheltering under them. Hopefully, assistance arrives soon to bring in sago palm leaves, betel nut trunks and ropes to reconstruct thatch roofs.
- Two permanent Church buildings (St. Mark and St. John) were seriously damaged uncovering the roofs and badly damaging the walls - it will take time and resources to put them up again. They will surely need to be rebuilt so the community can return to their normal lives as a praying church. Church plays a big role in the spiritual lives of the community; and there is also a need for counselling for people affected by the impacts of the Cyclone.
Anglican Missions is soon to be sending initial financial donations to the Church in Vanuatu to assist.