ACT member ABM launched an emergency appeal in May, 2017, seeking to raise $20,000 to assist the Anglican Church of Melanesia – Vanuatu’s (ACOMV) relief and recovery effort following Tropical Cyclone Donna, which had battered the islands of Vanuatu leaving a trail of damage in parts of the country.
The Northern provinces have been most affected, in particular the Torba Province in the Anglican Diocese of Banks and Torres where many Anglicans live. The cyclone’s strong winds ravaged other provinces, including the island of Espiritu Santo, and was unusual for the month of May as the Pacific cyclone season officially ended on April 30.
Funds raised goes towards food, shelter and clean water, plus sanitation and hygiene needs for affected communities. Fuel may also be needed for the Southern Cross, ACOM’s boat, to transport relief aid.
ACOMV’s Disaster Risk Management Coordinator Mr Fisher Young Dinh, had reported that there had been significant damage to houses and gardens, with only enough food supplies to last up to two or three weeks in some communities. Water supplies have been contaminated and toilet facilities destroyed on some of the islands.
ACOMV, in collaboration with Torba Provincial authorities, assessed communities on the four islands of Loh, Hiu, Tegua and Toga as well as Ureparapara, Mota and Motalava Islands. Mere Lava, Gaua and Vanua Lava islands suffered damage to gardens and the roof of All Saint’s Church on Vanua Lava was blown off.
The relief supplies identified during the initial damage assessment have now been delivered to the affected areas. On 20th May, the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) handed over the relief donations to Philip Meto of the National Disaster Management Office on Loh, Torres, in the Torba Province of Vanuatu.
On the way to delivering the relief items, the ACOM ship visited the islands of Toga, Tegua and Hiu before landing in Loh. It was through this journey that the full destructive force of Tropical Cyclone Donna was revealed. One team member commented;
“The whole of the Torres group [of islands] was brown in colour, the gardens are badly damaged, and people have been traumatised and are in despair. They need counselling, most especially people on Toga, Tegua and Hiu Islands.”
There were several church buildings destroyed, including St. James chapel on Loh, and All Saints chapel on Vanua Lava, further south in the Banks group of islands. Communities are now in the process of rebuilding their churches, and repairing some damages to school buildings.
The main concern still remains to be food and water, however.
The National Disaster Management Office have deployed a Detailed Damage Assessment team to Torres, to identify longer term needs and recovery activities. ACOM will continue to work with this government department to ensure those in affected communities receive the help they need into the future.