U.N. targets shelter, water in $29.9 million appeal for cyclone-hit Vanuatu

A worker chops up fallen trees next to a destroyed boat at a resident's compound days after Cyclone Pam in Port Vila, capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su (Reuters)

By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Less than two weeks after Cyclone Pam tore through the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, 110,000 people have no safe drinking water and some 75,000 urgently need shelter, the United Nations said on Tuesday as it launched an appeal for $29.9 million. The appeal aims to help an estimated 166,000 people in Vanuatu - more than half of the country's population - who were affected by one of the worst cyclones to hit the Pacific region with winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph). The U.N. appeal came on the same day the Red Cross asked for $6 million to help tens of thousands of people made homeless by the cyclone in the Pacific nations of Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The aid agency warned their needs risked being neglected as the world focuses on hardest-hit Vanuatu. "The world's attention has been firmly focused on the impact of Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu but these storms also wreaked havoc in neighboring countries," said Aurélia Balpe, regional head of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as the IFRC launched an appeal for $6 million. Coastal flooding, heavy rainfall and storm surges created by the cyclone damaged Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea, leaving thousands of people short of food, shelter and clean water, the IFRC said. "There needs to be a greater balance in the humanitarian response across the region," Balpe said in a statement. "The needs in other countries may be on a different scale but they are just as acute for those affected." The IFRC appeal aims to help more than 80,000 people across the five Pacific nations by providing immediate aid and long-term support, including new homes, rainwater harvesting systems and ways of helping people to return to work. It follows an appeal made by the IFRC last week for $3.8 million to help 60,000 people in Vanuatu. Given that many communities are located in remote island groupings spread across a vast area, delivering aid will be expensive and challenging, the IFRC said. The U.N.'s Children Fund (UNICEF) appealed for $4.8 million to help 82,000 children in Vanuatu, as well as affected communities in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Kiribati. "Children - especially those in the hardest-to-reach islands - are in serious danger right now," said Karen Allen, UNICEF's Pacific representative, in a statement. They face a significant risk of disease because of flooding, poor sanitation and limited medical care, she said. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Katie Nguyen)