Over 500 villagers of West Ambae have fled to Santo and Port Vila on their own expense, in search of a better livelihood.
A Japanese volunteer on the island, Mayumi Green, confirmed the number and added that it could possibly be close to 700 people by now, who have conducted another exodus of their own.
A Councilor in the Penama Provincial Government (PPG), James Tari, mentioned that the village of Lolobinanungwa was completely empty and other villages of the West will soon follow.
According to Mr. Tari, the Lolobinanungwa community has taken matters into their own hands and purchased land in Balon, Santo, instead of waiting for the Government’s 2,000-hector promise which still hasn’t occurred.
“We can’t wait, we need to help our children, put them in school (in 2018) and plant, because we earn most of our food from planting,” the Takaro villager said.
Member of Parliament for Ambae, Jay Ngwele, said that the government’s promise to secure a substantial piece of land for Ambae is still in progress, however, the disaster that ‘happened’ is still posing a major threat today.
SANMA Lands Department Officer, Gwen Wells, stated that the land in Balon and Stonehill, which is another area the people of Ambae are interested in, are customary land titles, so the arrangement would be a private one between the landowner and the buyer.
The Councilor on the PPG said that they are purchasing a hectare at a time for VT270,000 in order to secure their future and galvanize a new beginning – “The people don’t want to live on canned food, I want them to stay, but we can’t do anything”.
With the hype of the Mini Games in Port Vila, Mr. Tari was asked about his thoughts on the event, to which he replied: “It’s not interesting to us, I am thinking instead of spending money on sports, spend money on the people”.