Two weeks after a tropical cyclone battered the Pacific island-nation of Vanuatu, a contingent of Israeli aid workers traveled to the archipelago to assist residents and distribute supplies to struggling and desperate communities.
Cyclone Pam pummeled a number of countries in the Pacific this month, reaching the island-nation over the weekend of March 13-15. In Vanuatu, 17 people were killed, 65,000 people were left homeless and 166,000 people were in need of urgent life-saving assistance, according to UN figures.
A team sent by The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) arrived in the country earlier this week to provide humanitarian assistance to grief-stricken locals.
In total, the team visited 12 villages and eight schools across two islands — all were completely destroyed.
In one village on the island of Tongoa, the Israeli group was joined by a local parliamentarian to distribute tons of rice, flour and drinking water to residents.
Local reactions to the team’s country of origin were surprisingly amiable, according to the group, with one volunteer quipping: “Everyone here loves Israel,” IsraAID said in a press release.
Mission head Yotam Polizer praised the locals for their courage, and recounted an incident when the contingent came across a homeless mother huddling beside her four young children.
“Despite everything that happened to them, she was proudly explaining to us how she protected her children underneath a white plastic cover. Our team was amazed by people’s resilience and strength,” Polizer said.
Despite a UN plea for international humanitarian assistance, one resident told the visiting crew that “It’s been ten days since the disaster, and these are the first supplies we have received.”
IsraAid delegations have provided humanitarian relief to a number of countries in the past during times of need, including South Sudan, Haiti, the Philippines and Myanmar.
The Vanuatan government estimates that an initial injection of $29.9 million is required to cover the needs of affected people until the end of June 2015.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a $4.8 million humanitarian appeal to provide over 82,000 children in affected communities in Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati with access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene and health services.