Port Vila, VANUATU/ HONG KONG, 21 March 2015 – Cyclone Pam was a terrifying ordeal for thousands of people and no more so than for new mother Liza. She was sheltering from Cyclone Pam last Friday night when her contractions suddenly began one month early. “When the flood came inside the house, we all squeezed in one corner,” said Liza. “I was sure my baby would come then – I was not feeling well at all.”
|Her contractions continued through the night and 48 hours later she gave birth Jeremiah, who lived the first few days of his new life in dire conditions. With no access to clean water, Liza was left wondering how she would properly care for the baby.
Fortunately, UNICEF quickly supported the government to bring water to Etas Elang, essential to the survival of people children and adults alike.
Little Jeremiah’s community of Etas Elang is located near the Bouffa Landfill dump around Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu. Most traditional houses there have been destroyed, with only the strongest ones able to resist the storm.
Liza sheltered inside one of the more solid houses during the storm. The doors and windows broke as the wind battered the house throughout the night. Most of the nails supporting the roof did not hold and part of it blew away. “We sat and waited until day light without sleep,” said Liza.
© UNICEF Pacific/2015/McGarry
Liza’s contraction started during Cyclone Pam, a month early. Her newborn son was born into a community heavily damaged by the storm, and without water.
Liza delivered her son Jeremiah at the Port Vila Central Hospital two days later. Part of the hospital was damaged, but the maternity ward was fortunately left intact.
© UNICEF Pacific/2015/McGarry
UNICEF has helped secure clean water for thousands since Cyclone Pam.
|In her community, hygiene conditions were desperate. Water was running low and what little remained was contaminated with debris from the nearby dump thrown in by the cyclone. Jeremiah was bathed in this dirty water and started developing skin problems around the neck.
UNICEF is supporting the Vanuatu Government and partners to deliver safe drinking water to communities such as Etas Elang. Water containers, purification tablets and soap are being delivered to communities until the water supply is restored.
“I was so relieved when they brought us water. I will use it to drink,” said Liza, which helps her to continue breastfeeding young Jeremiah and keep him nourished. “I will also be able to wash my baby in clean water. I am so thankful, because without this supply, we would have had no water at all.”
After any cyclone there is a real danger of diarrhoea and other disease outbreaks. Unless adequate water and sanitation services are quickly provided to children and their families disease and death may follow. UNICEF is working around the clock in partnership with the Government of Vanuatu to ensure that water and other life-saving supplies reach those who need it most.