2019 News

The Struggle to stay on Ambae

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

In September we told you about the people who had evacuated Ambae and started rebuilding their lives on nearby Santo. But many people are returning to the volcanic island, and are facing unique challenges…

Since the eruption of Manaro Voui volcano, the Government of Vanuatu has encouraged people from Ambae to find places to live on other islands. But people don’t want to permanently leave the land that is part of their identity. So, despite the risks, many have returned to Ambae.

Moses is the Area Administrator for East Ambae. He is one of the people who returned. He is living in Lovumkatabola community and helping the returnees settle and adjust to living with an active volcano. Their greatest need is safe water in their community. 

“Evacuees returned to Ambae a couple of months ago,” Moses explains. “At the moment there’s enough water, as some of our community is still on Santo. If more come back we will have a problem.”

“In my community, there are six water wells (in-ground open tanks), but after the ash fall, when we came back, we are using only two. The other four were…” He pauses and thinks for a moment...“were unfit for human consumption.”

The people climbed down into the wells with buckets and rags. They emptied out all the ash gathered at the bottom. They scrubbed the walls clean. They built new gutters to collect the rainwater. Even with all this hard work they still have to rely on the rain for their clean water.

“Before we had wells, when we were kids, we used to collect water from the river, the creek,” Moses says. “After school, we took our containers and went to collect water for tomorrow, for tomorrow’s breakfast. 

“It was a hard walk – we’re talking about little kids, pregnant women, elderly people. It’s really hard to walk for two kilometres to collect water for tomorrow. It’s very challenging because we depend on heavy rainfall, so we have water running. If we have a long sunny season we have problems, because water dries up. It’s the same with the wells. 

“If there’s no rain,” he said. “We have nothing.”

The uncertainty around the volcano adds greater difficulty. Last time it erupted they were able to host people from affected villages. Because of the lack of water they can’t do that again.

“If a new eruption takes place next year, we want to host those people again,” Moses says. “If we have water tanks, they can come and use them. At the moment, if we don’t have any water tank, we have to say we can’t host them, we don’t have enough water.”

The people of Lovumkatabola have a great need for more water.

“If there’s no water, we use the sea for bathing. We have to collect water from nearby communities, using 20 litre containers,” Moses explains.
“We need two water tanks – 6000 litres each – and that would improve our living standard. Kids will be happy. Pregnant women can collect water from short distances. Elderly people can collect water from short distances. Kids will drink clean water, in order to excel in education.”

Together this year, we have raised over $160,000 for people like Moses and his community. Thanks to supporters like you, communities like Lovumkatabola will be able access safe, clean water close to home!

You can still help even more people! It costs just $20 to give one person access to safe water. And donations are open until 6 November! 

Tank you tumas.”

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