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Source: Save the Children

As COVID-19 cases surge across the world, Save the Children has warned that Pacific nations are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic.
Save the Children New Zealand is preparing to help hundreds of children in Vanuatu affected by Cyclone Harold, which started hitting Vanuatu’s waters last night.
The system is gathering more strength as it moves slowly in a south-easterly direction towards northern Vanuatu. It is predicted to track through the majority of the country’s islands as a Category 5 storm, the highest category rating with sustained winds of 252 km/h.
A State of Emergency was declared by Vanuatu’s President on March 26th in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there has been indication that the TC Harold response may see a change to the government’s state of emergency. So far, Vanuatu has not reported any cases of COVID-19.
Save the Children NZ Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee said, “The COVID-19 tragedy has affected many lives, and as always, children are the most vulnerable in crisis situations. Our international staff are working on the ground to assess what’s needed to prepare for landfall of the cyclone and how we can best assist. We’re expecting that people’s houses will be destroyed, their crops will be wiped out, heavy flooding will contaminate their water. It could be an unprecedented humanitarian response.”
“The risk is that if everyone needs to congregate together in shelters or churches, those that unknowingly have COVID-19 will pass it to those close them. This could see COVID-19 spread like wildfire through the community. Also, with all the stress and trauma caused by the cyclone, domestic violence may see an increase in the weeks following.”
“We have relief items in place ready for distribution, including plastic sheeting and ropes for temporary shelter, hygiene kits and jerry cans, as well as education supplies to help get children back to school as quickly as possible.”
Save the Children has been working in the Pacific for decades and is doing all it can to help communities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea prepare for the virus, including by promoting hand washing and hygiene, and distributing soap and hand sanitiser.
Over the next two days Cyclone Harold is predicted to track towards Fiji.