Communities in Vanuatu are slowly beginning to pick up the pieces left behind after destructive winds and heavy rains, brought by two Category Four cyclones, tore through the Pacific Island nation within the space of a few days, said Save the Children.

Initial reports from Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office have indicated approximately 251,319 people, of which 125,500 are children, have been impacted by the dual tropical cyclones, nearly 80 percent of the country’s population.

In Shefa province alone, which includes the nation’s capital, Port Vila, around 50,000 children have been impacted by successive severe tropical cyclones last week.

In addition to the two category four cyclones, Vanuatu also experienced a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in the early hours of Friday morning, just off the island of Espiritu Santo.

Save the Children Pacific Director Kim Koch said while the extent of the damage is still not yet clear, the impact of the successive cyclones on children and their communities across Vanuatu will be immense.

“What we’re seeing on the ground is just sheer devastation. As families have started to pick up the pieces that have been left behind by Tropical Cyclone Judy and Tropical Cyclone Kevin, we’re seeing houses destroyed, some with roofs blown right off, as well as damage to critical infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals. “People here in Vanuatu barely had time to register the impacts of Cyclone Judy before having to bunker down for a second powerful storm.

“These kinds of disasters have a lasting impact on children and their communities, and beyond the immediate needs, responding to a crisis on this scale is likely to be a longer-term proposition.

“Save the Children is preparing to respond in the priority areas identified by the government of Vanuatu, including Shefa province where we have a strong operational presence, and stands ready to assist.

“Our priority is to ensure children and their communities are safe and have adequate shelter, and that children are able to access education as well as other services to minimise the impact of the disaster on their mental health and wellbeing.

“Vanuatu is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and children across the islands have been highlighting the impact of the climate crisis on their lives as they tirelessly campaign for change.

“The devastation they have faced in the past few days is a clear signal that more must be done to address the climate crisis. Children in Vanuatu and across the Pacific have the right to live free from increasing climate-fuelled disasters.”

Save the Children has a long history of responding to emergencies in the Pacific and Vanuatu, ensuring we work alongside the Government of Vanuatu in the coordination of the response.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that tens of thousands of Ni-Vanuatu children could be experiencing “stress and trauma” after the double cyclones that tore through the island nation last week.

With widespread damages to infrastructure, many children have lost their homes, had their schools damaged, and neighbourhoods hit hard by cyclones Judy and Kevin.

Port Vila International School teacher Cassidy Jackson-Caroll told RNZ Pacific it was important to prioritise school-aged children’s wellbeing during these times.

Jackson-Caroll said that requires all stakeholders to move quickly and restore a sense of normalcy and enable children to return to school.

“It is quite important [for schools to open],” she said, while noting the large-scale devastation caused by the twin cyclones.

“One thing I thought is the kids want to see their friends. They have spent a lot of time at home tucked up with their families, which is very important [during cyclones]. But they also need a little relief to see that their friends are okay”

She said no electricity and no running water is an issue across the country which means schools remain affected.

But she is hoping the situation will improve by next week and those children who can return to school will be able do so.

“I think it is important even if it is half days or two or three days a week for some kids that is enough because some are going to be traumatised,” she said, adding Port Vila International School will have a “soft opening” on Wednesday.

“Sometimes they might just need to see their friends and go and play some soccer or just have a hug. They just need to laugh away from the anxiety and stress and trauma that they might have at home,” she added.