Month After Cyclone, Half of Vanuatu Still Has No Clean Water

More than 100,000 people in Vanuatu—half the country’s population—still lack access to clean water, a month after Cyclone Pam devastated the Pacific island nation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Wednesday.

Two-thirds of Vanuatu’s water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged, wrecked, or contaminated, UNICEF said in a statement.

“There is water but quality is not that good because of the contamination,” UNICEF’s Vanuatu chief Ketsamay Rajphangthong told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday. “When the water is contaminated there’s lots of risks coming after that, especially diarrhea and also other forms of disease.”

Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 13 and tore apart the tiny island nation with winds that reached 210 miles per hour—killing 11 people, uprooting trees, destroying houses, and cutting off almost all electrical power, leaving behind a “looming threat of hunger and thirst.”

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With nearly 70 percent of wells contaminated, UNICEF is providing water purification tablets and plastic sheets for rainwater harvesting, but acknowledged that the measure is only a temporary solution, Reuters reports.