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Vanuatu mobilises, Australia pledges Vt20.5 million for disaster relief and volcano surveillance

Plans are in place in Vanuatu to evacuate people out from Ambae, to safe sites on Maewo, Pentecost and Santo, if the Lombenben volcano situation gets worse.

The Director of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Shadrack Welegtabit, made the assurance to cluster teams in their meeting Wednesday. Volcanoes are unpredictable. Nobody knows what will happen next-whether the activity at Lombenben will decrease or will turn explosive, said Manager of the Geo-Hazards Department, Esline Garaebiti.

Ensuring everyone is safe in safer zones is the top priority,she said.

Onsite evacuation on the island is ongoing and people will be cleared out of the evacuation centers however, if the activity continues to intensify and reaches the highest level, said Director Welegtabit.

Almost 300 final year students (Years 8, 10, 12 and 13) will be evacuated to boarding schools on Santo.

According to the Education Cluster Team, they would be evacuated starting this weekend before mock exams next week.

Students must not be deprived of education, for more than two weeks, according to the education policy.

The cluster teams from education, health, food, water and hygiene, shelter, gender and protection presented their short and long-term action plans to the inter-cluster meeting chaired by the NDMO Director yesterday.

It was reported that some evacuees are sleeping under trees due to overcrowded evacuation centers and are taking goods from local shops on credit due to food shortage.

They (evacuees, particularly the young men) upon reaching the evacuation centers have to go the garden to collect food but wear head covers to protect themselves from ash fall.

The Food Cluster Team has assured it is working with the Department of Agriculture to collect and store local food and standard relief food as rice and canned food enough for everyone .It includes fruits and vegetables.
The Director of NDMO warned the cluster teams about food safety -reminder not to give food contaminated by ash fall including water, which is in short supply.

The Water and Hygiene Cluster Team is confident clean water will be provided with support of partners until such time evacuates return home.

The team confirmed water tracking on east Ambae is underway.

Multi-taps will be restored and existing water storage will be used as refill stations.

A team will be deployed to deliver hygiene kits based on WASH standards, test water quality and install temporary toilets at evacuation centers at a ratio of 1 toilet for 30 female/males.

About 2, 000 households were displaced following the eruption.

Regarding shelter, 100 tents have been shipped transported to Ambae as part of the first national relief shipment on Tuesday this week.

Most shipping agencies are on standby to take needed food, shelter and non-food items to Ambae, the Logistic Team told the NDMO Director.

A barge will leave Port Vila today (Thursday) with water, food, shelter, hygiene including specialists to support the evacuation centers.

Regarding health concerns, medical supplies will be brought in from Santo and a team has been deployed to assist in the evacuation centers.

According to the Health Cluster Team,the Penama Surveillance Unit will be activated to monitor disease outbreaks.

In response to a request for assistance from the Vanuatu Government, Australia has pledged up to Vt20.5 million(US$190,000) to help people displaced by the increasingly active Lombenben volcano on Ambae.

Supporting its Pacific neighbour to respond to the crisis, Australia has released much needed supplies like food, water, shelter and hygiene kits for affected communities on Ambae and provide funding for surveillance flights over Ambae and Ambrym’s volcanoes. Assistance to the Vanuatu Police Force will also be provided to help with the movement of displaced communities, provide security and support relief operations.

Vanuatu’s RVS Tukoro departed Port Vila on Tuesday to deliver Australian supplies to affected communities, through the Vanuatu Red Cross Society.

“Australia has responded to a request for assistance from the Vanuatu Government to help deliver much needed supplies to affected communities on Ambae. Australia is providing food, water and shelter to those displaced by Lombenben volcano,” said Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin.

On Monday, September 25, the Vanuatu Government issued a request through the FRANZ (France, Australia and New Zealand) partnership to provide assistance to the people of Ambae.

The Vanuatu Government, though the National Disaster Management Officer (NDMO), and in conjunction with the Penama Provincial Government, are coordinating the response to the natural disaster.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, and Minister of Climate Change, Ham Lini, will visit Ambae this week.

Addressing the media in a press conference, Prime minister Salwai, said the government had already approved Vt200 Million (US$1.8 million) for immediate emergency response for the people on Ambae, but is prepared to seek assistance from the international community if necessary.
This comes as Speaker of Parliament, Esmon Simon, in his capacity as the Acting Head of State acted on the advice of the Council of Ministers (COM) and declared a State of Emergency on Ambae.

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