Ambae volcano - Vanuatu

Photo caption: Child friendly spaces established by Save the Children, Vanuatu. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: Child friendly spaces established by Save the Children, Vanuatu. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: “This island is different, it’s a big island … the kids are very amazed to see so many people, so many trucks. The town is too busy and too noisy … If the Child Friendly Space wasn’t here, they would be with their mums, running around, doing nothing.” Rosanna is a mother of four, who was evacuated to Chapuis Stadiu. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: “This island is different, it’s a big island … the kids are very amazed to see so many people, so many trucks. The town is too busy and too noisy … If the Child Friendly Space wasn’t here, they would be with their mums, running around, doing nothing.” Rosanna is a mother of four, who was evacuated to Chapuis Stadiu. Photo credit: Save the Children.

In September 2017, the Vanuatu Government declared a state of emergency after Ambae Island’s Manaro Voui volcano erupted. This led to the mass evacuation of the island’s population (over 11,000 residents including 5,220 children) to the neighbouring islands of Penticost, Maewo and Santo.

Ambae was evacuated rapidly, leaving little time for the government and other humanitarian organisations to adequately plan for the displaced population. Evacuees were housed in evacuation centres (schools, churches, camping grounds, private residences and nakamals - a traditional meeting place in Vanuatu) while they waited for further information about the state of their home island.

Through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership funded response, Save the Children distributed 350 water and sanitation kits, 800 womens’ dignity kits and established Child Friendly Spaces in evacuation centres.

In partnership with CARE, Save the Children conducted a rapid gender and protection assessment, which highlighted significant unmet needs in relation to supporting women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly. One of the major findings was the distress and anxiety experienced by evacuees. Many families left their homes in the middle of the night with no more than the clothes on their backs, leaving behind livestock, pets, valuable possessions and their main source of income, their gardens. There was also an increase in domestic and family violence and children were separated from families. Women complained about the difficulties of supervising children in a foreign environment while also trying to source food and clean drinking water for the elderly and disabled.

Over the course of several days, and with Australian Government funds provided through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP), 20 Child Friendly Spaces were constructed. These spaces provided a safe place to play, re-engage with education and have a sense of routine and normalcy. 

Photo caption: Prime Minister Charlot Salwai visits Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space in Chapuis Stadium. He spent time talking to children and staff, and stressed the importance of children maintaining their schooling. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: Prime Minister Charlot Salwai visits Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space in Chapuis Stadium. He spent time talking to children and staff, and stressed the importance of children maintaining their schooling. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: Children play, draw and learn about hand-washing hygiene in Child Friendly Spaces set up by Save the Children. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: Children play, draw and learn about hand-washing hygiene in Child Friendly Spaces set up by Save the Children. Photo credit: Save the Children.

Photo caption: The partnership between DFAT and Save the Children enabled immediate and life-saving aid to be provided to some of Vanuatu’s most vulnerable children and families, at a time when they needed it the most. Ensuring woman and children receive the support they need during an emergency is critical to the entire community’s wellness and recovery well after the disaster has passed. Georgia Tacey, Country Director, Save the Children Vanuatu with Susan Ryle, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Vanuatu.

Photo caption: The partnership between DFAT and Save the Children enabled immediate and life-saving aid to be provided to some of Vanuatu’s most vulnerable children and families, at a time when they needed it the most. Ensuring woman and children receive the support they need during an emergency is critical to the entire community’s wellness and recovery well after the disaster has passed. Georgia Tacey, Country Director, Save the Children Vanuatu with Susan Ryle, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Vanuatu.

With the AHP funding, Save the Children was able to train 28 teachers and school committee members to deliver psycho social support activities.

The agency worked to ensure the needs of different groups of people were being met, undertaking six gender and protection monitoring assessments, co-facilitating 10 gender and protection cluster meetings and providing psycho social support to over 100 women upon repatriation.

As children and their families returned to their communities in November 2017, Save the Children ran inclusive community events to celebrate their return home and to provide a space to voice and share experiences. This response also supported children to transition back into life in the “New Ambae” through the development and implementation of a structured psycho social toolkit specifically tailored to the needs of children from Ambae. 

In 2017, Save the Children in partnership with CARE Australia received $400,000 through the AHP for their Ambae Volcano response in Vanuatu. The length of this AHP response is October 2017 until July 2018. 

Date of the article: January 2018.