World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Vanuatu continues to face health challenges

A month after Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu continues to face health challenges

PORT VILA, 15 April 2015 – Working with the Ministry of Health of Vanuatu and other partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made significant progress in addressing the health needs of the more than 160 000 people affected by Cyclone Pam. However, a month after the Category 5 storm ravaged the Pacific island country, many pressing health challenges remain.

“The impact of Cyclone Pam will be long lasting,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We will continue to respond to the urgent needs of the people, as we use this tragedy as an opportunity to help rebuild a stronger health system.”

WHO has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ministry of Health to assess needs and coordinate the emergency health response. So far, WHO has collaborated with the Ministry of Health in coordinating:

• 20 foreign medical teams that have delivered critical care in affected areas;
• 65 medical evacuations of patients;
• distribution of emergency medical drugs and supplies, diarrhoeal disease treatment kits, and 190 000 water purification tablets;
• a measles vaccination campaign that has reached 16 000 children under 5 years of age, who also received deworming treatment, vitamin A supplements and soap; and
• an early-warning disease surveillance system designed to rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks.

While progress has been made, those affected by the cyclone continue to face life-threatening risks from a lack of food and safe water, growing disease outbreaks and a health system struggling to get back on its feet. In addition, a significant shortfall in financial support for the health response has raised concerns about whether efforts can be sustained.

“The Ministry of Health and health partners have helped save many lives in the past month,” said Dr Jacob Kool, WHO Country Liaison Officer for Vanuatu. “But we are not out of the woods yet. We need more support if we are to continue to provide the health services the people need.”

Only 23% of the nearly US$ 5 million requested for health-related interventions has been received, according to the most recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The funds are required to address urgent health and nutrition needs until June 2015. Without additional funding, many are concerned that people affected by the cyclone will not receive the health services they urgently need.

The cyclone left 11 people dead and caused widespread devastation across 22 islands of Vanuatu. The entire population is at increased risk of disease outbreaks. Approximately 110 000 people are in urgent need of clean drinking water. Many require nutritional support, including 12 500 children under 5 years of age, according to the most recent report by the Government and partners.

An increasing number of reports of acute diarrhoea in children has alarmed both parents and health workers. There is also a growing number of reports of respiratory illnesses. The risk is also imminent for other waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases, such as typhoid and dengue fever.

At least 51 health facilities were damaged. That number may increase as assessments are completed. The delivery of health services has been further complicated by unreliable communication systems, road and sea transportation, as well as water and energy supplies.

“The situation for people on the southern island of Tanna is still very serious due to a lack of shelter, electricity, food and clean water,” said Dr Jean-Olivier Guintran, a WHO medical officer who just returned from Tanna. “It will be challenging to deal with these increasingly urgent basic needs of the population in coming months.”

A shortage of drugs and medical supplies in Vanuatu is also anticipated due to the increase in demand created by the cyclone. WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health in monitoring this potential problem.

WHO continues to support the response and work closely with the Ministry of Health through the long-term process of rebuilding the health system.

Related link:

More information on Cyclone Pam


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Covid: 250 Groups Urge WTO Chief To Ditch Pharma-Friendly Approach And Embrace Vaccine Patent Waiver

by Jake Johnson, staff writer An international coalition of 250 civil society groups on Tuesday urged the head of the World Trade Organization to embrace a temporary suspension of coronavirus vaccine-related patents, warning against pursuit of a voluntary ... More>>

Samoa’s Stunning Election Result: On The Verge Of A New Ruling Party For The First Time In 40 Years

Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni , University of Auckland and Patricia A. O'Brien , Georgetown University Samoan politics is on a knife edge. After the country voted in general elections on April 9, counting so far has resulted in a dead heat between the two ... More>>

Timor-Leste: UN Agencies Support Response In Wake Of Deadly Floods

United Nations agencies in Timor-Leste are supporting response efforts, as floods and landslides left widespread damage across the country, including in the capital, Dili. According to media reports, at least 21 people died in the country and many ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Awake At Night: S3-Episode 21: There Is Hope

Brazzaville visit to CSI Pilote du Diabete with Health workers at a local government clinic. 2018 - Photo: ©CSI/Dr. Soumya Swaminathan 'When it comes to a pandemic, it really needs global collaboration and solidarity because the pathogens and viruses More>>

UN: Growing Calls For Revamping Development Financing To Ensure Sustainable Global Recovery From COVID-19 Pandemic

Forum to highlight new initiatives to tackle inequalities exacerbated by pandemic With many economies reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as inequalities continue to widen, world leaders will discuss options to unlock concrete investments ... More>>

How Can We Vaccinate The World? Five Challenges Facing The UN-Backed COVAX Programme

The aim of the UN-backed COVAX scheme is to get two billion vaccine doses into the arms of around a quarter of the population of poorer countries by the end of 2021. What are the main challenges that need to be overcome, if this historic global effort ... More>>