An interlude: Drought and Famine in Vanuatu

This is my first post that has nothing to do with books

– except that if you’re dying of thirst and/or starvation, reading is a fair way down the list of things you’re likely to do. I’m giving you fair warning now; there are details below if you want to donate to help.


Location of Vanuatu (Source)

South Pacific islands are not the first places that come to mind when the word famine is mentioned. However, that’s exactly what’s been happening in the island nation of Vanuatu for a growing number of weeks.

It’s the result of a combination of effects. Category 5 Cyclone Pam ripped through the islands in March, destroying the crops of the Ni-Vanuatu who are primarily subsistence farmers, along with many homes and what little infrastructure existed. The seeds and seedlings planted after the cyclone, however, were vulnerable to the El Niño associated drought that followed. The southern island of Tanna has been badly affected, experiencing severe water and food shortages, and parts have been in a state of famine for some time.

There are reports of at least six children dying from dehydration and starvation,

and probably more in isolated villages. This is happening in a place just over four hours flight time from Sydney.

Water supplies are contaminated and are drying up. Village leaders don’t know what to do. Help has reached some areas, but it has been minimal and not enough to ensure the survival of babies and children, or sick and elderly.

Liberty for the Nations is an organization that has been working in Vanuatu for many years, building and supporting Christian schools in areas where children would otherwise be unlikely to be able to get an education. They are sending immediate help to Tanna from Port Vila as much as funds allow. My Practical Bloke has spent quite a bit of time in Vanuatu over the last few years, and worked alongside the Liberty people for a chunk of that, so we know they’re trustworthy and responsible. The header photo for this blog is one I took while in Vanuatu last year.

Pastor John Tuprick (known by friends as Maxie) and his wife Michelle (pictured below), who live in Port Vila, have been to Tanna to assess the situation. Here is some of their report:

12095195_10205201981996649_642305265181531257_o“Our first village stop was Loanpakel in North Tanna. Skinny kids with scabies, sores and runny noses came out from the bushes to meet us. Save the Children had visited the day before, and assessed that children up to 5 years old are the most underweight and malnourished. Mothers have to walk 2 hours to get water from the river that is contaminated, for cooking and drinking. The river will dry up soon if no rain comes.
“In the North East, we visited Imafen village where 5 children have died in these past few weeks, from the effects of the drought. People there are struggling to survive. The chiefs of this village said they are not coping, they don’t know what to do.
“White Sands area in the east is very badly affected by the drought and volcanic ash. Crops can’t grow well. Everyone is eating unusual food like vine roots. There’s a shortage of water. One chief said, “We don’t have food. We eat all kinds of leaves and vines to survive”.
“During our visit, the NDMO [National disaster management] distributed rice to some communities, one household per bag. Complaints arose from other communities that they hadn’t been given rice. 50 households walked for 2 hours to find rice but it turned out they didn’t receive any.
“Water and nutritious food is what the people need. Just rice is a help, but by itself it won’t stop the children from dying of malnutrition.”


Liberty for the Nations

You can check out their  website
To donate to the Tanna famine, you can direct deposit:

Account name: Liberty for the Nations
BSB: 062807
Account No.: 10046782
DESCRIPTION for identification: TANNA FAMINE
Donations are tax deductible if TANNA FAMINE is specified.


Global Development Group

Global Development Group is partnering with Liberty for the Nations to help Tanna. To give via Global Development Group, go to the Global Development Group website, and choose Donate. The DESCRIPTION for identification is J738NR. Tax deductible receipts for gifts over $2 sent to GDG for this approved emergency aid project will be issued by Global Development Group.

(Based on cheapest prices in Port Vila + shipping to Tanna):

$15 = 1 box water (12 x 1.5 litre bottles)
$40 = 1 box canned fish (24 large tins)
$40 = 1 bag rice (25kg)
$30 = 1 box noodles (60 packets)
$60 = 1 water filter (these are due in Vanuatu in 7-10 days).
Other supplies will be purchased as needed and available.

Liberty for the Nations
PO Box 441
Salamander Bay NSW 2317
0414 293286 / 0249 847698