• Crisis Severity ?
    1.7
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    2.0
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    2.0
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    1.0
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    1.0
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 272,000 Total population [?]
  • 123,000 People exposed [?]
  • 109,000 People in Need [?]

Overview

16/04/2020

Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall on 6 April 2020 on Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu’s Sanma province as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds over 215km/h.?

The cyclone directly affected more than 160,000 people, approximately half of Vanuatu’s total population. At least 4 people died in the storm. The northern provinces of Sanma, Malampa and Penama, home to several populated areas, including Luganville, Vanuatu’s second-largest city, were most affected.?

Across the affected area, homes, health facilities, schools, and crops were severely damaged. The number of displaced people and damaged homes is unknown. Satellite assessments indicate that 90% of buildings on the island of Pentecost (Penama province) were damaged. In Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island, as many as 70% of buildings were damaged. Much of the damage was caused by flooding as heavy rainfall caused the Sarakata River to rise eight metres beyond its bank.?

Vanuatu requested international assistance on 9 April to assist national agencies in meeting immediate needs including shelter, NFIs, protection, food, and WASH assistance.?

Cyclone Harold is the second Category 5 storm to hit Vanuatu in five years. In 2015, Cyclone Pam affected all six provinces, destroyed 90% of the buildings in the capital city Port Vila, displaced 65,000 people, and resulted in 600 million USD in economic losses, the equivalent of 64% of Vanuatu’s GDP. Repairs to homes and public infrastructure in most affected areas took more than three years and the country has only recently recovered from the financial impact of Cyclone Pam.?

Latest Developments

16/04/2020

Cyclone Harold made landfall as a Category 5 storm on 6 April, causing widespread destruction across Vanuatu’s Sanma, Penama, and Malampa provinces. More than 100,000 people have been affected and 4 people died in the storm. Access constraints have delayed needs assessments and many communities are still inaccessible due to flooded and damaged roads. Initial reports suggest 22,500 households could be in need of shelter assistance, especially in Sanma province, where 80-90% of the population is expected to have lost their homes. More than 20% of health centres in the affected areas have been damaged and access to clean water is limited due to damaged sanitation infrastructure. The Government of Vanuatu is conducting needs assessments and humanitarian actors have begun responding, though the supply of relief items in the country is limited. There is concern that response will be hindered by COVID-19 restrictions, including quarantine requirements for cargo and people entering Vanuatu.?

To learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Cyclone Harold response, see the relevant paragraph below.

Key Priorities

16/04/2020

Shelter: Initial response plans by the government suggest 22,000 households could be in need of shelter assistance. The current stock of tarpaulins in the country is enough to assist 16,000 households.?

Health: In Pentecost, reports suggest that 20% of the total population has been injured and approximately 20% of health facilities in the affected provinces are damaged. In Pentecost, makeshift wards have been set up in buildings that sustained less damage than the health facilities.?

WASH: Across the affected areas, municipal water pumps operate on electricity, which has been severely disrupted since the cyclone made landfall. Water infrastructure, including pipelines and pumps have been damaged.?

Information Gaps and Needs

16/04/2020

Access constraints, including communications and transport disruptions, delayed needs assessments and resulted in numerous information gaps. Specific needs related to the following are unknown:

  • The total number of homes destroyed and people displaced.
  • The extent of damage caused to health facilities.
  • Disruption of agriculture production and the total number of crops that are damaged.

Humanitarian Access Constraints

16/04/2020

Communications networks in Espiritu Santo, Melekula, and Pentecost islands were completely down for more than three days, delaying response and needs assessments.

Roads have been damaged and blocked by debris, especially on Pentecost Island and in Luganville, which is typically a hub for transportation. While airports and ports were temporarily closed due to debris, all were operational one week after the storm hit.

Restrictions related to the COVID-19 response in Vanuatu pose a challenge for humanitarian personnel coming from outside the country as well as imported goods.?

COVID-19 Impact

23/04/2020

Vanuatu does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, though a State of Emergency was declared on 26 March to combat the virus. Curfews, physical-distancing measures, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all people entering Vanuatu were imposed.

Some restrictions were eased before Cyclone Harold made landfall. Internal travel restrictions were eased for first responders and humanitarian workers already present in Vanuatu and physical distancing measures were lifted to allow citizens to gather in emergency shelters. However, the government has stated that humanitarian workers from outside the country will not be allowed entry and the response to Cyclone Harold will remain an internal matter for government and aid agencies already present in Vanuatu. Additionally, imported cargo will be required to undergo a 3-day quarantine period before being distributed to aid groups and benificiaries. This will likely cause delays for the international response to Cyclone Herald.?