Cyclone Pam One Year Anniversary - Karie Manaruru, Vanuatu

Published: 7 March 2016 9:13 CET

When Cyclone Pam made landfall in Sasake Village on Emae Island in Vanuatu last March, Karie Manaruru knew that his house probably wouldn’t withstand the storm.

“My house was not in good condition so I went down to the doctor’s house to be safe. When I saw that my house had been destroyed I felt terrible.  My family lost their house too. They rebuilt theirs first and then they rebuilt mine for me”, explains the 61 year-old.

Karie was fortunate. His house was rebuilt in just one month with tools provided by the Vanuatu Red Cross Society. He was also one of many who benefited from distributions of critical relief items carried out by the Red Cross in the weeks following the disaster.  These distributions reached almost 40,000 people across the country and included a set of kitchen items, a shelter kit and a solar light.

Recovering from the disaster wasn’t easy for Karie who lost a leg in a construction accident when he was just 27. “Living with one leg is not easy. It’s hard to do things like work in the garden, or collect water from the well. I can’t walk very far on these crutches and when it’s raining it gets very slippery and I often fall over. When Cyclone Pam hit us here, it was very hard. The food in the garden and everything we planted was ruined.”

Vanuatu Red Cross’s mission is to help improve the lives of the country’s most vulnerable people. People with disabilities such as Karie, are one of the groups given highest priority in their Cyclone Pam recovery operation. To make life easier for Karie, in October last year the Red Cross installed a 1,100 Liter water tank next to his house connected to a rooftop rain water harvesting system.  This came at a good time, as the rains filled his tank in the weeks soon after it was installed.

“Before the cyclone I didn’t have a water tank and my family would have to bring me water for bathing and cooking”, he says. “If I could find someone to collect water for me I would ask them. If not, I’d have to do it myself. I’m thankful to the Red Cross for what they’ve done. These are things I will have for my entire life”. 

Since the tank was installed Karie now has sufficient water to get through the dry spell caused by El Nino which for months has brought drought-like conditions to much of the Pacific region.

“The sun is too strong; we don’t have enough food or water. People that planted food in their gardens but the sun is ruining it,” explains Karie who is also concerned about the general welfare of his neighbours.. “If another cyclone came, I think we’d all be dead because there’s nothing to block the wind, all of the trees fell over during Pam. We don’t have strong houses to sleep in, some people are still sleeping under tarpaulins”. 

The relief items distributed in Vanuatu were  jointly supplied by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)), French Red Cross, Australian Red Cross and the Australian Government as part of the overall Red Cross response following Cyclone Pam.