Joyleen comforts her four-year-old brother Nathan in a health centre after his measles vaccination. With UNICEF support, Nathan is one of 10,000 children in Vanuatu being immunised against measles.
Vanuatu faced a life-threatening measles outbreak before the cyclone hit. The risk of disease outbreaks hitting vulnerable children is higher after disasters. To minimize risks to children, UNICEF quickly supported the Government to launch a campaign to immunise 10,000 children under the age of five years in just 10 days.
The community health centre, one of the few buildings on Ifira Island to survive Tropical Cyclone Pam, is crowded with families bringing their young children for measles vaccinations, deworming tablets and Vitamin A pills.
Joyleen and her sister Lawrence should be at school, but both of their schools have been affected by the cyclone. Lawrence hopes to return to her school in a few weeks’ time but Joyleen, a volleyball enthusiast who is studying hard for important year-end exams, has at least two months to go before her badly-damaged school reopens.
“I am worried about my exams but we can’t go to school so I’m just trying to study from the books we managed to save,” Joyleen says as she bounces Nathan in her arms. “This cyclone has affected everything in my life. It’s affected our home; our family and I haven’t seen any of my friends since the storm.”
|Nathan received his vaccination © UNICEF/2015/Sohkin|
Their mother Touliu is pensive as she recalls the storm. “Our home is right on the water in the entrance to Port Vila Harbour. We were worried about the strength of our home so we moved our children to this small health clinic. They sheltered here with five other families and my husband and I stayed at the house. It was the biggest storm I’ve ever been in. The children were very scared and my youngest is now frightened of the wind and dark.”
“We lost the kitchen and everything in it – but, most importantly, our crops have been destroyed. We need these for our food, it’s too expensive to buy food at the supermarket and it costs extra money to take the boat to Port Vila to go shopping,” said Touliu.
Water and food is becoming a daily issue for family’s like Touliu’s. “Food is even more expensive now that the storm has destroyed everyone’s crops, and even though we’re trying to replant our crops they won’t be ready for another six to nine months. The water came back on yesterday after two weeks but they say it will take another month for our electricity to come back.”
|Touliu with her daughters © UNICEF/2015/Sohkin|
“We live close to the main wharf where the cruise ships normally come in – I sell souvenirs to the tourists and my husband works on the wharf,” says Touliu. “But there’s no tourists for another month or two so we have too little money to repair the house or buy food.”
Touliu lowers her voice as she looks towards her children. “It’s very hard for us to live now, especially for our kids. They see another child with lollies or a treat and we can’t give it to them. We have no work right now so this will take a long time to recover.”