El Nino drought looms for cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu
Six months after Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu, there are fears an El Nino-linked drought could create major food shortages in parts of the country, aid organisation CARE Australia warns.
In the country’s south, staple food crops have failed to fully recover due to limited water supplies, sea water damage and dry conditions.
“It’s unusual for crops to fail like this, people are starting to feel panicked about not having enough food,” CARE Vanuatu Program Director Inga Mepham said.
“The majority of Ni-Vanuatu rely on their food gardens to feed their families. There is no safety net.
“Many are now resorting to traditional foraging techniques to find food and are being forced to travel further into the bush to find edible plants and berries.”
The category-five storm, which made landfall on March 13, was one of the worst natural disasters the Pacific region has ever experienced.
More than 180,000 people – half of Vanuatu’s population – were affected across five provinces, including significant destruction in the capital Port Vila.
Rainfall has been lower than usual in recent months and the country is now bracing for the possible effects of a powerful El Nino, believed to be the strongest in the Pacific for almost 20 years.
Ms Mepham warned the upcoming cyclone season could further exacerbate the situation.
“The cyclone season typically starts in October so people in Vanuatu could soon be dealing with multiple emergencies.”
CARE Vanuatu’s cyclone relief operation has shifted its focus to help people respond to crop failure and the dry conditions. For affected communities, CARE is providing:
• Chickens and pigs for consumption and breading
• Drought resistant yams and peanut plants
• Training on farming techniques that can conserve water and soil.
Ms Mepham said the response from Australians to CARE’s Cyclone Pam Appeal had been outstanding.
“Australians have shown remarkable generosity through their support for CARE’s response in Vanuatu. This support has, and will continue to be, crucial to helping families recover.”
To donate to CARE’s Cyclone Pam response, visit care.org.au/pam, call 1800 DONATE (1800 020 046). A donation of $55 can provide five families with seeds and tools so they can grow fruit and vegetables for the coming months.
CARE has worked in Vanuatu since 2008, focussing on building resilience to disasters and climate change shocks, and increasing women and girls’ involvement in community leadership. CARE Australia is an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities. www.care.org.au
For more information or to arrange an interview with a CARE expert,
please contact Sam Bolitho on 0419 567 777 or Dylan Quinnell on 0412 449 691
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