Today 350 Pacific’s Coordinator, Koreti Tiumalu sent this message to 350.org supporters to update them about the situation in Vanuatu.
“In the next days people will not have enough food anymore”
Isso Nihmei, 350 Vanuatu Coordinator.
By now you’ve probably heard about Tropical Cyclone Pam — the category 5 cyclone that brought devastation upon the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam was the strongest storm to ever hit Vanuatu with some estimates suggesting that up to 42,000 homes being damaged and 150,000 people affected.
350.org has a special relationship with Vanuatu. It’s hard to describe the feeling of grief that we felt as news of the destruction on the ground was sent to us by 350 Vanuatu’s Country Coordinator, Isso Nihmeh.
As the storm began to batter the Island and Isso’s updates were coming through, our team was anxiously glued to our computers. Unsure how long the connection would last, there was a shared feeling of helplessness amongst us. Then, in a message sent to the Climate Warriors in a Facebook conversation, Isso writes:
“We have hope that everything will be fine..we’re doing our best to help our people…thank you all for your prayers, peace be with you all..WE FEEL YOU.”
The 350 Vanuatu team were right there throughout pre-storm evacuations, maintaining communications during the storm, and now, working on the ground in the harrowing aftermath of a storm that has completely annihilated their Island. Isso and the team have been tirelessly supporting displaced families, clearing debris, and even recovering bodies of those unable to protect themselves from the storm – all the while, providing updates to our Pacific team.
In the wake of this unimaginable disaster it is easy to feel helpless, but the international community has already rallied around the Pacific and the support has made all the difference. In the last 48 hours, the outpouring of love and support for Vanuatu and the Pacific in messages and posts to the 350 Pacific page has been immense. Isso and the team have asked us to continue to keep them and their people in our prayers – and we will. #PrayForThePacific has been our hashtag, and it has become a way for us to connect, pray and send words of hope to the people of Vanuatu. The people of the Pacific are people of faith, and your prayers and messages mean so much.
Humanitarian organisations are already on the ground providing relief, but with over 80 remote islands and such utter devastation, the scale of the relief effort required is enormous and these organisations will need your support.
The relationship between climate change and more severe tropical storms is well understood, and extreme weather like Cyclone Pam remind us what is on the line in the struggle for climate justice.
In his last update, Isso sent us this message:
“Now that Cyclone Pam has left, it’s like a heat wave has hit us. Climate change is bringing new extremes to Vanuatu. It’s devastating us.”
These are the realities of being on the front lines of climate change and our Pacific people are well aware of this. But this is not what is at the forefront of their minds — right now, the people of Vanuatu are looking to the world for help. Crops have been destroyed, food rations are in short supply, thousands of families have been displaced, essential infrastructure is still down and search and rescue operations are continuing. Our hope is to be able to support these immediate needs.
We thank you for your support and ask that you will continue to keep Vanuatu and the people of the Pacific in your prayers.
Koreti Tiumalu on behalf of the 350 Pacific team