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“In the morning when we came outside, everything was gone”

23 March 2023, Impact of Our Work, Climate

Children shocked by back-to-back disasters in Vanuatu

“The wind came, the trees fell, and we ran into the classrooms…” remembers 10-year-old Roseh, who sheltered in his school as a vicious cyclone tore through his community in March. 

“When the winds were strong and loud, I was scared and some babies were crying, but we all stayed inside the classroom,” says Roseh, who had already braved an equally strong cyclone just days earlier. 

Roseh (10), Serah (9) and their mother, Rose, took shelter in the children’s primary school when cyclone Kevin hit their community. 
Photo: Elisa Mondou / Save the Children Vanuatu. 

Samilia (10) and her family also took shelter in her school as the storm started to howl around them. She remembers, “when the strong winds came and blew off the front roof, we moved to another classroom… a branch broke and fell on the roof making a hole where the rain leaked through, causing more water to pour in on us.”  
“When we were at the school, I sung to myself when I was too scared - it helps me to calm down,” the 10-year-old girl adds. 

When both children emerged the next morning, their homes had been ripped from their foundations and blown away. Their possessions lay scattered in the dirt. 

“When I saw our house all damaged I felt really sad because I lost all my stuff. I lost my toy gun and my clothes too,” says Roseh.    

Samilia’s home was destroyed in the cyclone while she and her family sheltered in an evacuation centre. 
Photo: Elisa Mondou / Save the Children Vanuatu. 

Help at hand

The consequences of disasters can be devastating for children, severely affecting their physical safety and emotional wellbeing. 

That’s why we’ve sprung into action in Vanuatu.  Just days after the cyclone’s wrath our teams had already established Child Friendly Spaces for children to play, spend time with friends and receive emotional support.

Here Samilia, Roseh and their siblings paint and play games, as well as beginning to process what they’ve been through. These pop-up shelters were established with the support of our generous donors   and the hard work of countless staff, volunteers and government partners. 

Two-year-old Messi plays in a Child Friendly Space with a Save the Children staff member and teacher, Lilliano.
Photo: Savvy Vanuatu / Save the Children.

Building back better

And while children are being safely taken care of, we’re helping parents rebuild their lives one step at a time. 

Samilia’s mother remembers, “in the morning when we came outside, everything was gone. Our kitchen, half of our house, and all our belongings were wet, it broke my heart to see this.”

She’s grateful for the hygiene kit, tarp and tent she’s received from us. “The things Save the Children provided for my family will help my family, especially since we are living in a muddy area, and with a lot of dirty and unclean water. The soaps will help to keep my children clean and prevent them from catching germs.”

Samilia’s mother, Cindia, with her 8-month-old baby, Jay Jay, received a hygiene kit, tarp and household kit from Save the Children.
Photo: Elisa Mondou / Save the Children Vanuatu.

Roseh’s mother has used a tarp from Save the Children to waterproof the temporary dwelling she and her husband have quickly built since the cyclone. She’s thankful for the household resources saying, “these kits will help my children to sleep in a safe place, and we will use the cups, spoons, plates and pots to cook and make sure my children have food to eat.” 

With your support, we’ve reached 1084 children and family members with critical supplies like these,  as well as establishing temporary learning centres for students to learn in while schools are patched up. 

Roseh, 10, took refuge in his school during the cyclone.
Photo: Elisa Mondou / Save the Children Vanuatu. 

Not the first, not the last 

Unfortunately, as children living in the most disaster-prone country on earth, Roseh and Samilia are guaranteed to experience more terrifying weather events like this one. Increased ocean and air temperatures caused by climate change will make them even more severe than they already are. 

In the face of this, the people of Vanuatu remain strong and resilient. Roseh’s mother is already thinking about the future. “Our family plans on building a much stronger and cyclone proof house to keep us safe,” she says. 

But more is needed. That’s why we’re proud to be helping community members address the impacts of climate change already on their doorstep, as well as those to come. 

Thanks to the Green Climate Fund, we’re working with the Government of Vanuatu to implement the largest community-based climate resilience project the Pacific has ever seen. Together, we’ll reach over 90,000 women, men and children in all six provinces of Vanuatu to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change and better prepare for future disasters.    

For now, the people of Vanuatu are still picking up the pieces after cyclone Kevin. If you would like to support Save the Children’s work responding to emergencies, including this latest disaster in Vanuatu, please visit:


The Vanuatu Community-based Climate Resilience Project project is principally financed by the Green Climate Fund with support from the Australian Government and the Government of Vanuatu.

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