The ITU has deployed emergency telecommunication equipment to Vanuatu following the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam.
The cyclone, a category 5 tropical storm which hit the archipelago on Friday 13 March, has paralysed telecommunications and affected rescue and rehabilitation efforts, according to Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.
“ITU is committed to assisting Member States restore telecommunication links in the aftermath of natural disasters to facilitate humanitarian response to support the affected populations”, added Mr Sanhou.
The ITU has dispatched 40 satellite phones, 10 Broadband Global Area Network terminals and 35 solar panels to the Island nation to support relief coordination efforts.
“The frequency and intensity of disasters is increasing worldwide with a disproportionate impact on developing countries,” said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao. “We are working with our partners to increase the capacity of Member States to integrate ICTs in their disaster risk reduction policies. ITU is also encouraging governments, especially those in developing countries, to invest in telecommunication infrastructure that is resilient to disasters.”
Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Joe Natuman, thanked ITU for the support, noting that all 83 islands in Vanuatu suffered substantial devastation as a result of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
“ICTs are critical in these hard times,” Mr Natuman said. “As communications are down, the ITU emergency equipment, which we have received and distributed throughout the country, will help us coordinate the relief efforts as well as report the situation in outer islands.”
Cyclone Pam slammed into the Vanuatu archipelago, including its capital Port Vila, on Efate Island. Winds are estimated to have reached 250 Km/h with gusts peaking at around 320 Km/h, causing damage to the infrastructure, impacting services such as electricity and leaving debris across the capital.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 90% of structures have been damaged or destroyed in Efate. More than 2000 people are sheltering in over 25 evacuation centres in Efate, Torba and Penama.
Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital.
ITU considers emergency telecommunications an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda.