5 Mar 2004

Vanuatu aid workers say cyclone homeless risk hunger

4:36 pm on 5 March 2004

Aid officials in Vanuatu warn thousands of people made homeless by Cyclone Ivy are going to go hungry in a matter of days if food doesn't reach them.

The Red Cross says the food situation will become critical within a week.

David Neal, the chief executive of the Vanuatu Red Cross, says many villagers have been forced to sleep outdoors since the cyclone hit:

"They're just in the open. In some of the smaller villages and communities, all of the houses have been destroyed. The flooding that was caused by the heavy rain of the cyclone has washed away all of the gardens that were alongside the rivers, so all the food's gone."

Meanwhile, the New Zealand high commissioner in Port Vila, Bryan Smythe, says food aid is yet to be distributed.

Here in Vanuatu, the Disaster Management Office prefers to wait several weeks before distributing food aid, so that communities are encouraged to use the food that is available - bananas that have been blown down, the root crops are still in the ground - before distributing food aid.