IPPF appeals for money and volunteers for Vanuatu

pregnant woman in Vanuatu. The island has just been hit by the Cyclone Pam

IPPF is appealing for financial assistance to help with the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.

The federation is also calling for volunteers to come forward, especially nurses who may be able to assist on the ground when IPPF and its local Member Association are able to fully deploy to Vanuatu.

IPPF’s Regional Director, Nora Murat, said: “We urgently need money to ensure our MA can open again. The clinics need to be repaired and we need to ensure the electricity supply is restored. We want to be up and running again within two weeks as we know other health services will take longer.”

News that more than 150,000 people were left homeless after Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 13th is a devastating setback for the South Pacific Archipelago.

The category five storm, which hit the capital of Port Vila with winds up to 300kmph (about 180 mph), has left widespread devastation.

It’s thought to be one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the region and one of the worst cyclone’s the world has ever seen.

Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale told the BBC that the storm had "wiped out" all development of recent years and his country would have to rebuild "everything".

It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of the extent of the devastation because the 270,000 population is spread over more than 60 islands and communications are down.

Tewodros Melesse, Director General of IPPF said: “Having visited neighbouring Pacific Islands I saw at first hand the vulnerability to these types of natural disasters can bring.  Our hearts go out to all those trying to rebuild their lives and we shall support our Association in whatever ways we can. The IPPF family across the Pacific and globe stand in solidarity with Vanuatuans today.”

Ms Murat said they had managed to re-establish contact with Arnold Bani, the Executive Director of IPPF’s Member Association in Vanuatu (Vanuatu Family Health Associations or VFHA).

Mr Bani confirmed that all of the association’s staff were safe but added that the search for volunteers continued.

Mr Bani said there was no electricity and water was scarce. He added that the VFHA clinic and office had both been damaged and that the destruction was widespread.

The initial humanitarian response has started and IPPF and VFHA are working closely with government and UN agencies.

Ms Murat said there would need to be an urgent focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

She said: “One of the first stories that came out was about a young mother who was able to save her 11 days old baby.”

In the aftermath of a crisis or conflict, women and girls face very particular sets of challenges especially if they are pregnant or have just had a baby. The risks associated with sexual violence also escalate in situations where large parts of a population are displaced or where law and order have broken down.

Over the coming days and weeks we will be looking to ensure that sexual and reproductive issues are given equal weight in the humanitarian response.

The Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA) is a local non-governmental organization involved with family planning in the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, which has a population of 250,000. In 2011, VFHA delivered 421,000 sexual and reproductive health services.

The association works across 11 of Vanuatu’s most inhabited islands through its combination of 11 clinics and nine youth centres which include sites in the capital Port Vila and Santo.

The association provides services which are an integral part of the country’s health system. It trains student nurses, supplements government family planning service delivery in clinics and provides information, education and non-clinical contraceptive supplies to rural communities with the help of village volunteers.

Funds donated in support of our Cyclone Pam appeal may also be used in other places in the region that have been affected including Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.