Six months after Cyclone Pam hit Pacific islands, our reporter is impressed by how fast normal life has been restored.
4am. Last March. My birthday, in fact. But there was to be no opportunity to celebrate.
I was at Sydney airport for a flight to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Checking in, too, were members of other TV crews and employees of relief aid agencies and charities. The queue moved slowly: there was lots of excess luggage.
We were catching the first flight to depart to Vanuatu since the country had been hit by the biggest cyclone in its history. The initial reports from within Vanuatu were dire.
In fact, over the next week in Vanuatu I discovered that although the damage was extensive, few died. But the cyclone briefly dominated headlines around the world. Governments competed to announce donations of aid. Individuals gave generously to charities.
So I tried.
My best estimate, from drawing together figures in various organisations’ annual reports, is that between $20m and $35m was donated shortly after the storm. Most people I’ve talked to say that sounds “about right”.
For longer-term help for a “recovery” phase, a dollar figure for aid has proved even harder to pin down.
Vanuatu’s government doesn’t have one. The best they’ve been able to provide is a list of what they believe was promised. But – as officials stressed privately to me – that does not mean that money was delivered.