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Cyclone Pam rebuilding and recovery could take two years

By Martin Thomas, chief executive, Habitat for Humanity Australia

It may take more than two years to rehouse the tens of thousands of victims who have been made homeless from Cyclone Pam.

Cuts to Australia’s aid budget could hamper Australia’s ability to adequately respond to such disasters across the Pacific which is becoming increasingly vulnerable to more severe and frequent natural disasters.

The incredible scale of the destruction in Port Vila – where up to 80 percent of all buildings have been damaged or destroyed – is extraordinary.

Added to the destruction of so many houses is the damage to essential infrastructure such as roads and the supply of water, power and communications. Then there is the remoteness of the many islands that are still yet to be reached by aid workers.

The experience of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan shows the challenges to a fast recovery. Almost 18 months after that disaster an estimated 25,000 people are still living in transitional sites, evacuation centres and tent settlements. Worse, it is estimated that 95,000 families are living in emergency or makeshift shelters that are deemed ‘unsafe’.

It could take as long as six months even to provide basic transitional housing, dormitories or tents, to the thousands of homeless families.

The initial response to this disaster by the Australian government should be applauded but with the aid budget suffering big cuts, our ability to help those hit hard by these super storms may be hampered.

There is huge need to support the tens of thousands of people affected by this disaster and agencies have begun providing medical aid, clean water and food. There is also a desperate requirement for temporary shelter, before repairs and rebuilding of homes can commence.

Habitat for Humanity has sent staff to Vanuatu to assess the situation and to play a lead role in coordinating with government agencies and partners on the disaster response operation.

Our immediate response efforts will include emergency shelter assistance. Based on funding availability, the longer-term response will follow Habitat’s model of assisting affected communities with housing solutions, ranging from emergency shelter interventions to permanent home reconstruction.

Donate here to Habitat for Humanity’s disaster response appeal.

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