UN calls for help to aid Vanuatu as death toll rises

THE United Nations is urging the international community to rally behind Vanuatu as the death toll after Tropical Cyclone Pam hits 17.

UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for the archipelagic nation, Osnat Lubrani, said 65,000 people had been left homeless after the cyclone hit Vanuatu, Tuvalu and a number of other Pacific Islands one week ago.

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"Water is a serious problem, with the contamination of water sources a grave health threat, particularly to children," Ms Lubrani said.

"Food stocks are limited as vegetable gardens have been wiped out - a concern for food security and as a source of livelihoods. Several of the health centres and schools have been severely damaged."

Cruise ships are taking up the call, with P&O Cruises announcing two of its holiday cruises would double as humanitarian missions and carry aid to the region.

The Pacific Dawn, the first cruise ship to visit Port Vila following the cyclone, left Australia on Saturday and will hand over enough goods, including tents, tarpaulins, toys, water, mulchers and tuna, to fill a shipping container when it docks on Wednesday.

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The Pacific Pearl will leave for Vanuatu on Monday with twice as much aid, including corrugated iron, hygiene products and batteries.

Two Royal Australian Air Force S-70 Blackhawk helicopters left Australia for Vanuatu on Saturday and the HMAS Tobruk will arrive on Monday.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to the devastated nation and announced Australia was providing more than $10 million in relief funding, including $50,000 for emergency sexual and reproductive health services for women.

- APN NEWSDESK



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