Toilets and water tanks – and a battle with cyclones in Vanuatu

May 16, 2024

Can you imagine the logistical challenge of installing toilets and water tanks on one of Vanuatu’s most rugged islands? AID’s partner ACOM (Anglican Church of Melanesia) was up to the challenge, assisted by local volunteers in every village they visited on Vanuatu’s remote Pentecost Island.

The first step was to transport tonnes of materials (cement, iron sheeting, fibreglass toilets and water tanks, and construction tools) by ferry to the tiny port village of Bwatnapnie on Pentecost Island. From Bwatnapnie, the materials were loaded with volunteer assistance onto a four-wheel drive to be transported across winding dirt paths, slowing at each pothole and quagmire, to villages across North and Central Pentecost. In East Pentecost, the roads were even worse, so locals sent horses to help with transport!

When AID visited Pentecost Island, we saw that numerous toilets had been installed for vulnerable households and in some communal locations. In Bwatnapnie, one had been built at the harbour and another at a nearby boarding school. Further inland, we saw toilets installed in Enkul, Tanbok, and Arevo. In some locations, ACOM had also installed a bathroom and water tank, conducted awareness-raising sessions on disaster risks, and distributed tools, vegetable seeds, and food.

Most of the toilets had been built following Cyclone Harold (April 2020) or Cyclone Judy (Feb 2023), while some that we saw had been built in the pre-COVID period. Some toilets had lost their walls during Cyclone Lola (Oct 2023). However, the concrete toilet and septic pit remained undamaged, so locals simply rebuilt the walls and roof. That’s resilience!

The vegetable seeds had reportedly produced a better crop in some communities (such as in East Pentecost) than others. The food had been welcomed by people whose gardens had been shredded by cyclones.

AID would like to thank the Australian Government, which donated funds through an ecumenical consortium to which AID belongs, called the Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations (CAN DO). These funds enabled ACOM to install model latrines and bathrooms on the islands of Pentecost, Merelava and Ambae (northern part), as well as in one community each on Santo, Merig and Malekula islands.

AID would also like to thank our supporters, whose donations in 2023 enabled ACOM to distribute family hygiene kits, vegetable seeds, food, and tools on the Islands of Ambae (southern part), Maewo, and Santo. Your donations also enabled ACOM to install toilets at five schools.

Finally, we’d like to thank community volunteers, including Eslyn Mabon and Sofer Bule in East Pentecost, who helped with transport, installing toilets, and distributing relief items.