18 March 2015
Red Cross volunteers who have lost everything, continue to support those around them in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam
Resilience of Vanuatu volunteers highlights unique strengths of the Red Cross movement and its global volunteering networks
Following the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, local Red Cross volunteers on the ground are helping people whose lives have been shattered overnight, despite having lost so much themselves. Red Cross National Societies on the affected islands have been some of the first to respond through their dedicated volunteer networks.
Nemai, a Vanuatu Red Cross volunteer has been working around the clock supporting people who have lost their homes. Through the pain of knowing that she too has lost her home, Nemai has put on a smile and dedicated herself to supporting her community, many of whom have suffered injuries and lost loved ones.
Nemai is not alone, 200 local Red Cross volunteers were mobilised immediately following the Cyclone, and another 200 were put on standby. In a country which has suffered such wide-spread devastation, it seems inevitable that the majority of these individuals will have experienced a similar loss to those around them.
Being part of the affected community may be difficult, but it puts Red Cross volunteers in an unique position to respond instantly when a crisis occurs, with the support of the people they are working with, who know and trust them.
Aurelia Balpe, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for the Pacific, said “We have been moved by the dedication and resilience shown by our volunteers in Vanuatu. They have been as affected as their neighbours by the cyclone, yet they remain committed as ever to providing whatever support they can to those around them.”
The volunteers have been helping conduct initial damage and needs assessments in communities around the islands, as well as managing the evacuation centres and distributing relief supplies to people in need. Vanuatu, which is situated along the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire,” is frequently battered by cyclones at this time of year. Prior to the cyclone’s arrival, the Vanuatu Red Cross assisted authorities with preparedness activities such as carrying out evacuations across the country in order to minimise damage.
Volunteering is one of the fundamental principles upon which the Red Cross Movement has been based, since its birth in 1863.Today around the world more than 17 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers play an essential role in supporting their communities.
Recent reports from Red Cross assessment teams on the ground have raised fears that more remote islands may have faced even worse damage, and that survivors could soon run out of food and water.
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for £2.6million which it hopes will enable Red Cross teams to deliver vital assistance and support to over 60,000 people affected. The immediate priorities include; providing people with emergency shelter, food, water provision and purification kits, hygiene kits, emergency health services, as well as reuniting families who may have been separated during the disaster.
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Contact Joey Greene 020 7877 7146 Jgreene@redcross.org.uk
Notes to editors
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.