EU funds emergency communication services in Vanuatu

Installation of a satellite connection in Luganville, Vanuatu – Photo credit: Télécoms Sans Frontières

Dozens of islands across Vanuatu remain totally cut off from the rest of the world following the landfall of super cyclone Pam over the weekend. The European Commission is therefore stepping forward to ensure emergency support to restore telecommunications across the archipelago by funding the specialised agency Télécoms Sans Frontières.

Restoring communications is critical for a coordinated and needs-based humanitarian response, especially in geographies like Vanuatu, covering over 80 smaller islands in the South Pacific, most of which are inhabited.

The deployment of staff and equipment will enable the different actors involved to speak and exchange data across the disaster zone pending the restoration of normal communication services. It will also bring invaluable psychological relief to many families, who remain without news of loved ones dispersed on different islands.

Since the category-5 cyclone Pam made landfall on 13 March 2015, mobile phone services have only been restored in the capital city, Port Vila, and part of the island where it is located, Efate. All other islands across the archipelago remain completely disconnected.

Two experts from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) have been deployed in the aftermath of the disaster and are actively participating in the government-led joint needs assessment. Preliminary reports from some of the islands reached over the last couple of days indicate an urgent need for food, water, medical supplies, hygiene kits, kitchen kits and bedding.

The funding provided to Télécoms Sans Frontières is part of the aid released by the EU in the immediate aftermath of the disaster in Vanuatu.