Post-Harold food shortages still impacting the North

Six months after the devastation of Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu’s north, shortage of food is still an issue on the west coast of Santo, parts of Luganville and on Malo, an island offshore from Santo.

Peter Lele, the Chairman of the Community Disaster Climate Change Committee on East Malo, says people in his area are still facing food shortages following Cyclone Harold because of what he says is “a second disaster” – where wild animals, such as pigs, have destroyed root crops and vegetables planted by communities since the cyclone.

He says villagers did plant the seeds and cuttings distributed by food and agriculture aid agencies immediately after the cyclone and have set up new fences to protect them, but their gardens have been destroyed by wild pigs.

“Animals that used to eat meat, are now eating vegetables and greens in the gardens,” he said.

Mr Lele says the food shortages are affecting children’s learning in school.

“In the school in my community teachers have raised concerns that more children are not attending classes than was the case before the cyclone,” Mr Lele said.

He says when teachers have approached parents to find out why children were not attending school since the cyclone, they have been told there is not enough food to give the children so they can attend school.

He says children need more than two meals a day to have enough energy to walk long distances to school.

“Some of the parents are saying they only have enough food to provide to two meals per day,” Mr Lele said. “Children need energy to also learn in the classroom.”

Mr Lele says some children in his area had asked teachers if they could go home early because they were hungry.

Mr Lele is calling on the National Disaster Management Office to address the food shortages on East Malo.

The Area Secretary for East Malo, Malon Rasu, says many people in East Malo affected by the cyclone are still relying on their families in Port Vila and Luganville to send rice so they have food to eat.

He says after a second food distribution following Cyclone Harold, the food and agriculture cluster had promised there would be a third food distribution but he says this third distribution has not happened.

Rocky Jean Neveserveth, from the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office in Santo, says the third food distribution did not happen on East Malo because the Department of Finance and Treasury in Port Vila reported there was no emergency funds left to finance the third distribution.

“We depend on the finance department in Vila and they told us the emergency funds that would have supported the third distribution of aid to East Malo are all used up,” Mr Neveserveth said.

Mr Neveserveth says post-Harold food shortages are not only happening in Malo, with the west coast of Santo and parts of Luganville also affected.

Mr Neveserveth says the National Disaster Management Office in Santo is working with the Agriculture Department’s food cluster to make another full assessment to find out which households are really in need of food aid so they can address the issue.

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