Vanuatu Red Cross response to Ambae ash fall disaster

PORT VILA, 06 AUGUST 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Manaro Voui, the active volcano on Ambae has been erupting since September 2017, damaging crops, polluting the air and water, and forcing people to flee their homes.

Approximately 10,000 people call the island home. Most have fled to a safe spot in the south and some have already relocated to nearby islands.

Recent eruptions have worsened; food crops and water sources are now severely contaminated.

The recent heavy ash fall which occurred in the third week of July has prompted villagers on South Ambae to flee their home and seek evacuation centres in the East.

The population from Ambae and neighbouring island can hear rumbling, volcanic explosions from volcano, smelt volcanic gases, see ashes and gas plume and glows over the mountain.

Around 10,112 people were on the island after returning from mass evacuation on September 2017 to Santo.

Vanuatu Red Cross teams were on the ground a week before the heavy ash fall worsened for its distribution response operation plan, targeting 1,000 households in the West, East, North and South.

Volunteers have been working to keep evacuated communities safe and healthy through awareness activities that focus on water, hygiene promotion and epidemic control.

They have also distributed relief items to 1,000 households (approximately 5,000 people) including tarpaulins, shelter toolkits, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, solar lights, mosquito nets, and hygiene kits.

On 26 July, 2018, the Government of Vanuatu announced an extended state of emergency and the compulsory evacuation of the population of Ambae.

Evacuations will be by boat to the neighboring island of Maewo, these will be carried out by the Government, beginning on the 2nd of August.

Due to the nature of the disaster on the South and South East, Vanuatu Red Cross had to call off its response plan and assist the Provincial government, by providing human resources and a lorry to evacuate people in the most vulnerable communities on the South of Ambae.

The Red Cross Response team conducted new registrations on evacuation centers, assesses affected communities, provided psycho-social support, and distributed pre-paid phone credit cards help families separated during this disaster to stay connected.

According to Disaster Management Coordinator Augustin Garae, there are two wards on the South, Redcliff that accommodates 49 households and Lologaro with eight households, were not been able to be reached due to the poor access and visibility on the ground, air and sea.

It is a tough and uncertain time for the people of Ambae, dealing with the both the eruption and the evacuation.

In the face of these events and not knowing when they will be able to return to their homes they have shown immense strength and resilience, and support for each other. Leaving your home – your land, your food source, your livelihood and your place of history, culture and community is incredibly difficult.

The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) as the Shelter Cluster co-lead with the Vanuatu Government is supporting emergency shelter coordination at the provincial and national level and will continue to assist with shelter needs for affected communities.

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