8 Jun 2020

Spike in sicknesses in Vanuatu’s cyclone-affected communities

11:51 am on 8 June 2020

Medical clinics in Vanuatu's cyclone-affected communities are reporting an increase in sicknesses, as the slow recovery process continues.

Cyclone Harold's destruction at Melsisi, Pentecost.

Cyclone Harold's destruction at Melsisi, Pentecost. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post / Albert Vireibo

It has been two months since the category five Cyclone Harold tore through the country, destroying 90 percent of buildings in the worst-hit areas and impacting as many as 160,000 people.

Relief work had been slow, hampered by Covid-19 restrictions and missing the usually overwhelming international humanitarian response - with most countries struggling to deal with the pandemic in their own backyards.

A Disaster Management Officer on one of the worst hit islands, Pentecost, said distributing food and supplies had been a huge challenge with downed trees and debris blocking access into remote communities.

Phillip Meto said clean water, food and shelter were still very much the main needs.

But he said recent heavy rains muddied streams and rivers, further complicating matters, and clinics had recorded an increase in illnesses.

"At the South Pentecost health centre they recorded their first case of malaria and there is a lot of sickness in terms of red eye and diarrhoea," he said.

"There have already been plenty of referrals to transfer patients to Vila [for] treatment at hospitals in Vila."