The gardens are gone but we have a family to feed

Published: 18 March 2015 2:34 CET

By Hanna Rose Butler, NZRC

Noel Faionalave lives in Mele, the biggest village in Vanuatu. “Eighty to ninety per cent of the people here live off their gardens,” he explains. “Their gardens feed them and their families and they sell what is leftover. The gardens are now gone,” he says. 

When Tropical Cyclone Pam slammed into Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, on Friday 13 March, the lives of thousands of people were shattered overnight. The government currently estimates that about 130,000 people from a total population of 277,061 have been affected.

“We are lucky to still be alive. We were very scared,”, he says. “It is the first time I have experienced a category five cyclone. This was bigger than Uma. This cyclone stayed for a very long time,” Noel continues.  

The water and the river which broke its banks flowed through Noel’s house. Mud and water came up to his hip. He evacuated with his family to another house.

“The gardens were blown away by the wind. The fruit is rotting on the ground. The rain from the cyclone flooded the vegetables in the ground, the water flowed through and ripped out my yams,” he says.

Aerial assessments and surveys from Red Cross volunteers in different provinces across Vanuatu report unprecedented damage to crops including banana, cassava, coconuts and vegetables.  

The food security cluster is estimating that the food situation will become critical within the next two weeks. They are working with the government and logistics cluster so that routes to reach the outer islands are identified.  

The support the Red Cross will provide to individuals such as Noel is critical. “I have a family of 12 to feed,” he says. “I have enough food for two to three weeks. After that we will try to survive.”


The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 3.9 million Swiss francs to support the ongoing operation in Vanuatu in response to Tropical Cyclone Pam. To read more click here.