Cyclone Pam’s Devastation of Island Paradise Vanuatu and Climate Change

IMAGE SOURCE: worldatlas.com

IMAGE SOURCE: worldatlas.com

By Anita Stewart 

Vanuatu is one of the poorest island nations on earth. It is also one of indescribable and unequaled beauty. Many would not even be able to pick this locale out on a globe or a world map. The place is as remote as you could possibly imagine. But Vanuatu has always been susceptible to rapid sea rise due to climate change.

The Paradise That You Have Never Heard About…

Vanuatu is made up of 80 tropical islands, 65 are inhabited. There are over 250,000 people that live there, a majority of them are poor. Tourism is one of the main money making industries and some notable people also own extensive real estate and homes on the islands. In 2006 several environmental groups published the Happy Planet Index. This was analyzed  data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint. Vanuatu was estimated to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being. Sounds like a wonderful place to be in and good for the soul.

IMAGE SOURCE: resources2.news.com.au/

IMAGE SOURCE: resources2.news.com.au

Cyclone Pam’s Arrival

The storm made landfall on March 14th and it was already a Category 5 with sustained winds of 165 mph and gusts nearing 200 mph.  Half of the population is now homeless. The latest unconfirmed death toll is 24 but the numbers are expected to rise. About 130,000 people have been displaced, 60,000 of those are children, altogether more than half of the population of the country. 90% of the buildings have been damaged and cannot be lived in. Many of the poor relied on sustenance farming but now garden plots have been destroyed obliterating an immediate food source for many. At least eight Australians are missing from the islands according to reports from the Sydney Morning Herald.

IMAGE SOURCE: good4utah.com

IMAGE SOURCE: good4utah.com

Climate Change

The President of the tiny island nation, Baldwin Lonsdale arrived home and gave a press conference blaming the storm on the higher rainfall this year and on climate change. He asked for the international community to “stand together as one” in regards to immediate aid to the people. The top hurricane expert also confirmed that the storm was as a result of climate change. The country has a National Advisory Board on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Aid Is Trickling In…But Follow The Money!

Aid is coming in but not as fast as survivors would hope. The Australian government has pledged over $5 million to the non-governmental organizations giving aid to Vanuatu. Other countries are making their pledges.

Many observers hope this will not be a repeat of aid and monies being re-appropriated by other entities and organizations before they can be used to help the people that are directly affected by the storm and it’s aftermath. Many also see the modus operandi of pledged money going through different channels when it finally materializes and this tends to happen when the funds are being used to assist a poor country in need. Perfect examples would be Indonesia and the tsunami of 2004 and the earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010. So the money will leave a trail.

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