Stories from the evacuation


By Dickinson Tevi/Vanuatu Red Cross

The port of Lolowai on Ambae was on the morning of Monday 2 October already busy with more evacuees getting ready to board the ships. Only 4 days left before the deadline issued by the Council of Ministers for all to leave the island of Ambae. Vanuatu Red Cross met Lesline Tari, a 30 year old from Navonda village with her baby who is 8 months old, sleeping peacefully on her worried mother’s shoulder. Lesline is married to Ezikiel Tari and they have 2 other children Rensly aged 14 and Edriano who is 8 years old.


Vanuatu Red Cross asked Lesline where they will be heading to. She says that all she knows is they are going to Santo. Asked how she is feeling about their new destination and Lesline explained that she has many worries going through her mind. She is worried about the belongings they are leaving behind. They make their living through subsistence farming in their home village of Navonda and in Santo they will not have land in which to make their living on. She says when you are forced to travel to an unknown future with your family, as a mother this is quite stressful to cope with not knowing what this will all mean for your children. Her greatest fear now is she does not know how they will survive in their new settlement.

Many people in Ambae, like the rest of Vanuatu are not paid workers. Instead they make their living off the land they own. Their children are like their retirement pension and insurance for when they become old and need to be cared for. So land and children is the only existing welfare system these people have. Take away the land and the children’s futures, and then you are taking away a family’s security.

Thousands in need as a Vanuatu island is evacuated


by Gemma Snowdon, New Zealand Red Cross

Thousands of people are preparing to leave their homes as Manaro volcano on Ambae Island continues to rumble, belching ash, smoke and volcanic rocks. Vanuatu Red Cross Society is on the ground supporting the evacuations and response efforts.

“People are on edge. They feel quite uncertain and afraid, with the constant rumbling going on. The whole island is unsafe, considering the level of volcanic activity that has been continuing for more than a week,” says Dickinson Tevi from Vanuatu Red Cross.

Mr Tevi is part of the Vanuatu Red Cross team that has been helping people affected by the evacuations since the government declared a state of emergency and raised the alert level to four out of a possible five.

In that time more than 7,000 people were relocated to 14 evacuation centres that Red Cross had helped set up on the east of Ambae Island, and now the decision has been made to evacuate Ambae’s entire population of more than 11,000 people to neighbouring islands Maewo, Pentecost and Santo.

People are leaving with few possessions and there is no way of knowing when they will be able to return home.

“Many people will have had to leave their home in a hurry and under fairly stressful circumstances so this will be a tough situation for them,” says Mr Tevi. “The most important thing will be ensuring the evacuees have access to food, water, and shelter.”

Red Cross has been conducting assessments to get a clear picture of evacuees’ needs. Clean water has emerged as the most urgent requirement, something that will only increase as the evacuations off the island continue over the next week. In response, Red Cross has distributed thousands of litres of water to evacuees.

Vanuatu Red Cross is heartened by the offers of assistance it has received so far and is accepting cash donations.

“A cash transfer takes a few minutes and is the best way to support relief efforts,” says Mr Tevi. “Sending unrequested good can slow down the humanitarian supply chain, causing congestion at airports and entry points, and competing with priority relief items for transport and storage.”

On 30 September 2017, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund amounting 255,000 Swiss Francs (263,000 US Dollars) to support the Vanuatu Red Cross in assisting 11,000 people with safe drinking water, hygiene promotion activities and the distribution of essential household items like mosquito nets and kitchen sets.