The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Cyclone-safer houses in Vanuatu

When Cyclone Winston hit Vanuatu in March 2015, the Port Vila suburb of Anamburu was one of the worst affected. Many people in the neighbourhood were left at the mercy of the elements and looked to NGOs including Caritas for assistance with temporary shelter and crucial supplies.

Once immediate needs had been met and people were able to begin putting their lives back together, Caritas shifted focus towards rebuilding and partnered with the Diocese of Port Vila and the Butterfly Trust to train local people to rebuild safer houses better able to withstand future natural disasters. 

Initially, five local master builders received tuition in safer and more resilient building practices and standards that are internationally recognised. They were also upskilled to become trainers, who then passed on their skills to 21 local youth trainees – 10 of whom were women.

At 80-years-old, and in a wheelchair due to knee and hip problems, Jeanne Imkon was one of those with the highest needs who has benefitted from the project.

Jeanne’s house was so badly damaged by Winston that a new house had to be built for her, which she moved in to in December 2016.  Later, a new shower and toilet was added by Secours Catholique (Caritas France).

Earlier this year when Cyclone Donna swept through the island nation, leaving behind a trail of destruction, the safety of the new houses was tested. 

All withstood the high winds and lashing rain, and people from the neighbourhood even came with their children to Jeanne’s house to shelter because they believed it was safer than others in the area.

Repairs and cyclone strengthening for more than 60 houses in Anamburu have now been completed as part of the project, and the master builders have gone on to form their own Anamburu Builders Association. 

Caritas is continuing to support the Association and work alongside its partners to continue building back safer homes.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust