Cyclone Pam (Category 5) which tore through the South Pacific and struck Vanuatu in March 2015 was extremely destructive. While there were few deaths, damage to land, agriculture and property was widespread. UNESCO assisted the Vanuatu Culture Centre (VCC) to carry out the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) for Culture to assess damages and losses sustained by the culture sector of the country.
As estimated 65,000 people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 17,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed and the destruction of crops compromised the livelihoods of at least 80% of Vanuatu’s rural population. The total economic value of the effects caused by TC Pam was estimated to be approximately US$ 450 million.
Cultural heritage underpins community identity and plays a critical role in social cohesion. The cyclone impacted tremendously on the cultural institutions, heritage and community facilities that are living heritage and historical records.
Based on the findings and recommendations of the PDNA report, VCC has been actively engaged in the recovery efforts. It successfully mobilized emergency funding from several development partners, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and UNESCO.
In November 2015, the restoration work of the Malekula Culture Centre commenced with the assistance of UNESCO. The Malekula Culture Centre is located in the island of Malekula is one of the two VCC’s Sub-Centres. The Malekula Culture Centre had experienced significant damage to its roofs by the cyclone, which caused damages to artefacts, books, and assets at the Centre. The restoration work of the Centre’s traditional structure will lead to the revitalization of traditional knowledge and skills such as thatching, weaving and environmental management, which are important part of the intangible cultural heritage of the indigenous community in Vanuatu.