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Development assistance in Vanuatu

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Supporting cyclone recovery and reconstruction in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is one of the most 'at-risk' countries to natural hazards in the world including cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Australia is a committed partner to supporting Vanuatu build its resilience, response and recovery capabilities.

Tropical Cyclone Harold

Category 5 Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold struck Vanuatu on 5 April 2020, affecting over 130,000 people (approx. 43% of the population) and resulting in three deaths. Vanuatu's  northern islands were worst hit, including the main town of Luganville, Espiritu Santo. TC Harold caused significant damage to schools, medical facilities, homes, agricultural crops, telecommunications and the local boat fleet. The estimated damage and loss from TC Harold is AUD 625 million, making it the worst cyclone to have hit Vanuatu, with a higher damage and loss estimate even than Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015 (AUD 600 million).

A village damaged by Tropical Cyclone Harold on Pentecost Island. Credit: Australian High Commission, Port Vila.

A village damaged by Tropical Cyclone Harold on Pentecost Island. Credit: Australian High Commission, Port Vila.

The Vanuatu Government estimated more than 26,000 houses were severely damaged or destroyed, leaving around 87,000 people without homes, and 130 public buildings and 258 community public water supplies were either damaged or destroyed.

Impacts on health were severe, with damage to 84 health facilities, and reported increases in communicable diseases, including conjunctivitis and diarrhoea. Approximately 885 schools in Northern Vanuatu were damaged or destroyed, leaving approximately 40,000 children out of school.

Kenneth Tari in front of his house damaged by Tropical Cyclone Harold at Waterfall village on Pentecost Island. Credit: Australian High Commission, Port Vila.

Australia immediately supported Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to undertake aerial surveillance to assess the scale of impact. Australia also supported the Red Cross and non-government organisations to release locally pre-positioned relief items, such as shelter, hygiene kits and water containers.

Following a request from the Government of Vanuatu, Australia provided a package of assistance including:

  • humanitarian relief supplies, such as blankets, lanterns, shelter kits and hygiene kits, and support for logistics in-country;
  • support for the Government of Vanuatu's response operations, including essential public services such as health, education and community safety; and
  • assistance to international and local NGOs to support the Government's efforts to provide immediate and medium-term support to affected communities in livelihoods, shelter, protection for women and children and psychosocial services.

Further information on Australia's immediate response efforts is available at: /crisis-hub/Pages/tropical-cyclone-harold

Australia is supporting the Government of Vanuatu to implement the Vanuatu Recovery Strategy 2020-2023, Yumi Evriwan Tugeta (July 2020) which targets restoration of essential services, enhanced livelihoods and repairing the built and natural environment to respond to the impacts of both TC Harold and COVID-19.

As part of our ongoing recovery efforts, Australia is supporting the repairs and reconstruction of schools and health facilities, as well as other public infrastructure, and community safety initiatives. Longer-term support is also being provided to assist with agriculture, livelihoods, shelter, hygiene promotion, and counselling services in partnership with Australian Humanitarian Partnership NGOs, the Red Cross and local NGOs. 

Australia is also supporting the Vanuatu Family Health Association, through the IPPF SPRINT program, to provide gender-based violence support, sexual and reproductive health services, and other essential medical care in Penama and Sanma Provinces.

Tropical Cyclone Pam

Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in March 2015, affecting four of Vanuatu's six provinces. The World Bank's Post Disaster Needs Assessment, endorsed by the Vanuatu Government, estimated total damage and loss from Tropical Cyclone Pam at around $600 million, or 64 per cent of GDP. Recovery costs were assessed at $426 million. Australia provided $15 million to support immediate response efforts.

Shortly after Tropical Cyclone Pam, the Vanuatu Government released its recovery plan, Strengthening ni-Vanuatu Resilience – National Recovery and Economic Strengthening Program Plan (Recovery Plan). Australia committed $35 million over four years (2015 to 2019) in long-term recovery support, bringing Australia's total estimated cyclone assistance to $50 million.

Our recovery program supports the Vanuatu Government's Recovery Plan and complements our broader aid program, focusing on:

  • supporting livelihoods, economic recovery and the private sector;
  • repairing and rebuilding critical infrastructure for public administration;
  • restoring health and education facilities, and
  • supporting resilience and gender and disability inclusion.

Australia is best-placed to support recovery in these areas, as they largely build on the strengths of our existing programs and relationships. To maximise their impact, our activities focused on Shefa and Tafea provinces, where almost 90 per cent of damage and loss occurred.
The key outcomes of Australia's contribution to the Cyclone Pam response are outlined in this factsheet and the below infographic.

Related documents

Name of document

Year published


Australian support to Vanuatu following Tropical Cyclone Pam – Fact Sheet



Vanuatu – Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, Tropical Cyclone Pam, March 2015 (published August 2015)


Disaster needs assessment

Strengthening ni-Vanuatu Resilience – National Recovery and Economic Strengthening Program Plan



Tropical Cyclone Pam Recovery Program Evaluation



Related links

 Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu as a category five storm between 12 and14 March 2015, causing 11 deaths and severely damaging housing, health centres, schools and other critical infrastructure.  The cyclone affected the livelihoods of around 195,000 people and harmed Vanuatu's key industries of tourism and agriculture.  Australia provided $10 million of immediate emergency support and $5 million of early recovery assistance.  In addition Australia has made a $35 million commitment to a long-term recovery to meet priority needs in worst-hit areas.
Australia has:
Supported women and children including the immunisation of 24,000 children and access to emergency health services for Ni-Vanuatu women.
Provided medical relief including an Australian medical assistance team that treated 1,341 patients at Port Vila central hospital and undertook 26 aero-medical evacuations from outer islands.
Distributed food and humanitarian relief supplies including almost 500 tonnes of rice to over 32,000 people through the World Food Programe and immediate water, sanitation and hygiene needs through Australian NGO’s and the Red Cross.
Repaired critical infrastructure including 143 schools benefiting more than 19,000 students and getting hospitals and health centres working normally again.
Restored livelihoods and food security including helping communities, especially women farmers, to restore food production and markets through advice on more resilient crops, safe food storage and increasing access to nutrient-rich foods.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to high standards of transparency and accountability in the management of the Australian aid program through publishing information on our website, including policies, plans, results, evaluations and research. Our practice is to publish documents after the partner government and any other partners directly involved in the delivery of the initiative have been consulted. Not all material published on this site is created by the Australian aid program and therefore not all documents reflect our views. In limited circumstances some information may be withheld for reasons including privacy and commercial sensitivity.

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