You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Toddler Pam growing up in cyclone's wake

AAP logoAAP 25/08/2016 Lisa Martin

A Vanuatu baby christened Pam after the cyclone that destroyed her family's village during her birth is now a cheerful toddler.

But almost 18 months after much of Tanna Island was flattened by the category five storm, life is far from normal for Pam's family.

Imaio is a small community of about 400 people nestled in the jungle a 10-minute drive from the active volcano Mount Yasur.

The village has faced a triple whammy - damaged huts and then failed crops as a result of El Nino and volcanic ash. The ash causes sweet potato crops to become too sticky and inedible.

While the dry spell has eased, volcanic activity is putting pressure on food security.

Fortunately CARE Australia has stepped in with chickens, pigs, a fish pond, seed distribution, agriculture training and a greenhouse project.

Shelter in the village remains problematic.

Pam and her family live under a broken roof, covered by a tarp while primary school pupils have been using a white canvas UNICEF tent as their classroom, and lessons are sometimes cut short because of the stifling humidity inside.

Traditional huts made from wood and coconut leaves didn't stand much chance in the winds that raged up to 320km per hour.

It could be a three-year wait before villagers can properly rebuild their homes because foliage needs to grow back.

Pam's mother Julie Nipiko, 25, recalled the harrowing labour of her first born.

She was bunkered down in a tiny shed - the village's medical clinic- with her husband, mother-in-law and aunt, while parts of the roof blew away.

"I got a fright but I had to stay strong to keep my baby safe," she told AAP.

The warmth of Ms Nipiko's smile conceals the hardship of being a new mum in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

That grin-and-bear-it attitude is on display across the village.

Domestic violence incidents reportedly have risen because the stress of cyclone damage and food shortages increased the consumption of kava - a drug made from the root of a pepper plant, crushed up, mixed with water and consumed like tea.

It makes the men lazy, and the women have to do all the work, which causes tension in the household, a grandmother in the village told AAP.

Vanuatu has had three prime ministers since the cyclone, and the political instability has hampered disaster recovery efforts.

Millions of dollars in international disaster recovery cash remains in limbo caught up in the bureaucratic red tape of the developing Pacific Island nation and the high standards of transparency required by donor countries.

Australia pledged $35 million in assistance but so far only 65 per cent of the money has flowed to relief efforts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says.

Efforts have only really ramped up in recent months - as of late April, less than $12 million had been allocated.

Australian recovery assistance has focused on rebuilding schools, health facilities, water management system upgrades, seed distribution and tourism promotion.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon