Tanna Island Emergency Relief

Government Directive for Emergency Rations



Communication is a wonderful thing, and being here now on the ground a lot is made clearer. From being on outsider only a day ago, and despite being in daily communication with a community in Tanna for most of the time since Cyclone Pam, the amount of vague and conflicting information is substantial.The problem of supplying aid to such a logistically challenging country is enormous, manpower short and focused on ‘doing the job’ rather than ‘informing the people’. Communication and PR, of what is happening at a local level has been relatively thin on the ground.


To say that no aid has been getting though to Tanna Island itself is both correct but incorrect at the same time. There is certainly a presence on the ground, obvious with a strong contingent of Australian Army at the airport with vehicles, assumed to be used for distribution. There are certainly friendly and interact with the local people and a credit to the relief program.

I am sure that at NDMO, there are figures that are coming through that are indicating that certain numbers of supplies and goods have been sent to Tanna, received by Tanna, and in the last week distributed to Tanna. On the other hand at grass roots level, substantial numbers of people at village level have still to receive any aid whatsoever.


There has been an amount of Relief supplies that have been bought into Tanna. It seems (although I have not verified this), that there was an initial thrust of relief that occurred almost immediately after the cyclone, followed by a greater volume and organised supply of relief.


It is quite vague about what happened to the smaller initial relief supply, and whether it went into the bulk storage somewhere ready for distribution, or whether it was distributed (and on what basis) is unclear. It is likely that there wasn’t any significant presence of specific aid transport infrastructure to get any to the more remote and needy areas. It is simply not known what happened to it.


The areas of Tanna Island have been broken up into seven separate regions, or Local Provincial Councils for most administrative purposes, and it is logical that the same applies in regard to Relief Operations. The seven Provincial Councils include :

• West Tanna
• South Tanna
• South East Tanna
• South West Tanna
• Whitesands
• North Tanna
• Central Tanna

Each Provincial Council, has as its members all the tribal chiefs from within that Provincial Area, and the Chairman of each is chosen by each Council. However, the Secretary for each is appointed by the Provincial Council.
With each each of these Provincial Areas, there have been a number of distribution points designated set up within them. These distribution points have been decided in consultation with each local area, but has ended up been a building that is as near as practicable to the groups or tribes assigned to them, and ultimately has often been the most robust building still standing near there.


The relief operation has been divided up into different clusters, so there separate food and shelter clusters and this appears to have been done for both operational and needs purposes. Food has been the most urgent and also the aid that has been in the greatest supply initially. There appears to be logistical issues surrounding distribution of temporary shelter, and combined with a particular actual lack of supply, has hampered provision of shelter.


> Collation of Numbers of People for Central Area.

In the first week, monday 16th March Provincial Council requested all the villages to submit a provisional broad brush number count for each village, which were submitted back to Area secretary (Central Area) by Wednesday 18th March. Most of these village tallies were submitted on exercise paper (as no official forms had been provided). On the same day that they were submitted (wednesday 18th), the Area Secretary (central) informed all the villages that the numbers were not acceptable and then provided forms to be filled out indicating the total numbers of of men, women and children (over age of three) per family, per village. These were duly filled out and submitted during the period of the 23rd/24th March. However, it appeared that after this submission, within the Provincial Government, a mistake was made and the total tally for the Central Area had been assigned to Middlebush sub-area. On the same night, the area secretary came back to community with the mistakes on the collated forms (not the original village forms). Working through the night, all the representative tribes came to the meeting point at the L.D.S Church, and the correct numbers collated, and then submitted to the provincial Government on Thursday 19th March.

> Set up of Aid Distribution Points.

At the same time, on monday 16th March the L.D.S church was designated by the whole of Central region as the major relief and distribution centre. This was subsequently decentralised to the four present Distribution centres after Wednesday 18th March on a meeting of each local community ( sub-area of Central Area), a chairperson and secretary appointed for each area. These Distribution Points and their organizational makeup were approved by the Taefa Provincial Secretary by 23rd/24th March.

> Distribution Points in Central Tanna Area.

Central Tanna as been broken into four distribution points, and the nearby tribes along with their associated people have been allocated to each of these distribution points. On this basis the gross amount of each food item is to be dispersed to each distribution point. The four Distribution points for central with there associated tributes are :

• L.D.S. (LOWIERU) – located on Main Road to Central 200metres before the Junction.
• LENAKEN – On Central Cross Road, 1km up Junction road on right past Muslim Mosque.
• LAMMNATU – At French school, near playing fields on main road to White Sands (up from interior Lenakel).
• IMARU – At a Junction just before French school to right approx 2.5 km.

Therefore each Distribution Point, has an agreed gross amount of supplies assigned to it, and it is understood that there would be a one initial supply and two subsequent re-supplies. Once the gross amount of each specific cache of food has been delivered, it is to be signed off by the Chairman for that Distribution Point.

The Account of supply is recorded by each Distribution Point Secretary, and the Central Area Secretary.

> Aid Distribution to Central Region to the 23rd /24th March.

At no time up to 23rd / 24th March had any relief aid been provided or distributed to any part of the Central Area.


A Standard food ration was issued by the “Food Security and Agriculture Cluster”, initially for the shepherd Islands. This was subsequently issued as being the same for Tanna, by the Tafea Provincial Council, and provides for the following Food aid relief every fifteen(15) days for every man woman and child (3 years and older)

• Rice 5kg
• Tinned fish 1 x 425 g Tin
• Tinned meat 1 x 200 g Tin
• Small Packet Noodles 2 x 85g packets.


It has been directed that the aid supplies be distributed by village in the exact ratio as set down above. If villages miss out they are to be supplied next in line until all people in the area has been catered for in each fifteen day period.

As seen below, this cannot be carried out as the supplies of rice, tinned meat and fish and noodles all vary in what is held by the Distribution Point and therefore all will run out at points of distribution, providing a bureaucratic nightmare.


Erik and Esso Working out the Actual Numbers of People based on Official Documentation
Erik and Esso Working out the Actual Numbers of People based on Official Documentation

The L.D.S. (Lowieru) is the Distribtion Point for most of the the area known as Middlebush Area. Official spreadsheets on persons serviced by the Distribution Point, held by Erik Ialulu, Secetary for L.D.S. Distribution Centre, were reviewed and audited by Greg Watt, Esso Kapum and Erik Ialulu, to ascertain the exact entitlement for each person.

From this Audit,the numbers have been tallied, which should be the same number held by both the Provincial Government and the central headquarters of the “Food Security and Agriculture Cluster”. The number of people in the L.D.S.(Lowieru) area number in accordance with their tribal makeup as follows : –

•• Rakatne 840
•• Namasmitane 371
•• Kaoiapne 340
•• Pusaine 392
•• Tangaluane 378
•• Iamanane East 587
•• Iamanane West 247
•• Pusaitomin 168
•• Naihne 74

Total People 3,397

Further, each village within each tribal has bee accounted for as follows :

Lounalo village 86
Lantun village 108
Lanipen village 109
Lounahan village 128
Loukorafa village 122
Laoul village 287 ******
Total Rakatane Tribe 840 people

Lounuala village 129
Lenatuan village 99
Loukahmal village 143
Total Namasmitane Tribe 371 people

Lamak village 116
Lounamilo village 128
Latkakru village 96
Total Kaoiapne Tribe 340 people

Loukotapis village 92
Laumelu (Laumahu) village 106
Lownolus village 77
Lownalus village 117
Lowmalo village 77
Total Pusaine Tribe 392 people

Laonarai village 126
Unal village 150
Lelualu village 102
Total Tangaluane Tribe 378 people

Fetukai 506
Imaus 81
Total Iamanane East Tribe 587 people

Lapukas village 247
Total Iamanane West Tribe 247 people

Lanemita village 168
Total Pusaitomin Tribe 168 people

Lamapruan village 74
Total Naihne Tribe 74 people

( Note that it has been found that one village that has been assigned to another Distribution Point has been included here, and some duplication of numbers in one Tribe. The Agreed number of People as of evening 9th April is 2887 people)


Therefore the number of people catered for by the designated aid package system is 3,397 people. Based in this the amount of food that should have been allocated to this distribution point is

Rice = 3,397 x 5kg/25 kg = 679.40 25kg Bags

Tinned Fish = 3,397 x 435g tin = 3,337 Tinned Fish

Tinned Meat = 3,397 x 200g tin = 3,337 Tinned Meat

Noddles = 3,397 x 2 x 85g packets = 6,794 packets Noddles


Erik with Rice delivered to Distribution Point as at 9th April
Erik with Rice delivered to Distribution Point as at 9th April



• The first delivery of Food to the L.D.S. (Lowieru) distribution point was on thursday 2nd April consisting of 84 off 25kg Baga of Rice, and some small amount only of tinned food.

• An extra top up has been made yesterday on late afternoon the 8th April of subsequent supplies.

• As of today 9th of April almost 4 weeks after Cyclone Pam, there has not as yet been able to be a distribution of supplies, because of inadequate quantise to actually make a distribution possible.

• The present supplies at the Distribution Point are as follows :

RICE 110 bags of 27.5 kg + 137 bags of25 kg = 247 Bags of Rice

TINNED FISH = 54 x 24 (425g Tins) = 1,296 Tins 425g Fish
+ 19 x 24 (185g Tins) = 456 tins 185g Fish

TINNED MEAT = 3 x 48 (200g Tins) = 144 tins 200g Meat

NOODLES = 480 x 85g Packets + 200 packets of Rice Noodles

BISCUITS = 7100 packets of small WFP (World Food Program) biscuits

Tinned Fish at LDS Distribution Point, Central Tanna
Tinned Fish at LDS Distribution Point, Central Tanna



By Greg Watt avid traveller and author of travel websites and blogs. You can keep up to date and share travel insights with Greg at Vanuatu Traveller’s Facebook Page, or with Greg himself on his Google+ Page.