Joseph Lob, water committee chairman and his family. Joseph was instrumental in his village’s recovery and rebuilding after Cyclone Pam

Water tanks and toilets: Rebuilding healthy communities one year after Cyclone Pam

It’s hard to imagine Joseph Lob’s face without a smile permanently etched across it and it gets even larger as he proudly recounts his community - Imapol, in South-West Tanna – and their recovery from Cyclone Pam during the last year.

“We started rebuilding the latrines (toilets) two days after Cyclone Pam…we knew that children would get sick if they didn’t have anywhere to go to the toilet.”

When Cyclone Pam’s flooding rains and gale-forced winds ripped through the island of Tanna in Vanuatu’s south, little stood a chance. Trees were uprooted, crops and homes left decimated; simple latrine structures stood no chance. Similarly, water catchment systems such as tanks were damaged, leaving people at risk of drinking dirty water.

Without access to clean water and safe hygiene children were especially at risk due to the spread of disease, common in disaster settings.

In Joseph’s community all latrines were destroyed, and with all vegetation blown away there was no-where private for people to go to the toilet.

“The wind was so strong all of the houses went down, all of the trees went down, all of the toilets went down.

“World Vision helped us with tools that we used to rebuild our homes and clear our gardens so we could replant…they also helped us rebuild the toilets, the village rebuilt half and World Vision helped us rebuild some,” Joseph said.   

As the head of the village Water Committee - established before Cyclone Pam as part of an ongoing World Vision project - Joseph was key in his community’s recovery.

“We already knew how to build the toilets because of World Vision’s other project, so we could start rebuilding straight away but World Vision helped us with materials so we could rebuild as many as we lost. They also helped rebuild some of them so it could be done quickly,” Joseph said.

Teachers at the nearby primary school where World Vision rebuilt toilets and installed a water tank said these facilities were essential in the school re-opening.

One year on and Joseph and his community are healthy, with access to clean water and basic toilet facilities, meaning families did not get sick with common illnesses like diarrhoea.

As Vanuatu faces yet another disaster, this time in the form of drought, access to clean water and repaired water systems will be more important than ever.  Water tanks and repaired water sources will ensure families are able to access whatever rain that does fall.  

With the support of the Australian Government, World Vision has assisted more than 30,000 people with their recovery, including installing 23 water tanks in devastated communities throughout Vanuatu and rebuilding more than 300 toilets. 

In total, with support from generous Governments and people around the world, World Vision has assited more than 62,000 people with their recovery.