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Food shortage sparks panic

Monday 14 September 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT VILA – In Vanuatu, six months after Cyclone Pam devastated the country, there are fears an El Niño-linked drought could create major food shortages.

Almost the entire Pacific region is preparing for what climate forecasters say could be one of the worst El Niño events since the late 1990s.

The aid organisation CARE Australia says in Vanuatu’s south, staple food crops have failed to fully recover after the cyclone due to limited water supplies, sea water damage and dry conditions.

Care’s Vanuatu programme manager Charlie Damon says people are starting to feel panicked about not having enough food.

“We were distributing seeds so that people could start to grow their own crops, however for reasons including unpredictable weather, these crops have failed.

“And so what we are preparing ourselves for is another situation where food security is a problem, where households do not have enough food.

“And we’ve already heard stories of children not being able to go to school because they haven’t got enough food.”

Damon says the cyclone season, which begins in October, could further exacerbate the situation.

Fiji is also feeling the effects of the Pacific-wide change in the weather.

Many are already feeling the effects of drought, with farmers losing crops and water supplies drying out.

The director for Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office, Akapusi Tuifagalele says the government is working hard to make sure everyone has access to water.

He says the government has already provided nearly US$250,000 worth of drought-related assistance to rural areas.