Vanuatu standing strong despite national and global crisis

Nuvi villagers in northeast Epi in the morning after cyclone Harold hit the island. Photo: Philip Dick

It is probably the first time since the country hoisted its national flag forty years ago, that the people of the Republic of Vanuatu, are uniting in prayers and as one people than ever before.

The desire for such a unity is forced on the citizens and the residents of the Republic of Vanuatu by the two natural disasters, one being the global onslaught of COVID-19 on the world, and the other is the current category 5 severe tropical cyclone code named Harold that battered the islands in Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa over the past days.

The COVID-19 emerged at the end of 2019, and became a global pandemic, but so far Vanuatu has sustained itself from the deadly virus and doing everything it can to keep coronavirus from penetrating into the country. The people of Vanuatu have rallied in prayers against the deadly virus from penetrating into the country. A force on unity never seen before. Just weeks before the onslaught on the COVID-19 on many countries of the world, the people of Vanuatu were divided in politics and had separate prayers for their preferred political candidates and political parties, though sounds of desire were heard in different political rallies throughout the country.

Immediately after the end of polling on 19th March 2020, the population reunite through Prayers for one purpose, and that is to keep the coronavirus out of Vanuatu.

This is clearly seen from comments and prayers raised on social media and even remarks that come from the general members of the public in buses, in the streets of Port Vila and in the Villages and communities throughout the country and as well as in churches just before the state of emergency was declared by the Vanuatu Head of State. The Prayers he offered on the day he declared the state of emergency, has been unitedly supported by every Christian Believers throughout Vanuatu, regardless of Christian denominations, religions, culture and islands in the archipelago.

Towards the end of 2019, the people of Vanuatu had their attention and bets on political candidates and parties of their choice. Then the country approached Christmas, and welcomed the new- year 2020. But the joy of the events were to be short lived when the world announced the new COVID-19 coronavirus in China and its spread around the globe.

Vanuatu immediately organized itself to stop the deadly virus from entering the country through various health, immigration and other measures, liaising closely and receiving advice along the way from the World Health Organization and other national, regional and international partners. Since then the population both in the urban and rural areas of the country have come to accept and embraced the importance of hygiene they must apply daily during the routine of life in order to remain safe.

As Vanuatu battle to protect itself from the COVID-19 coronavirus, it at the same time, took on the 2020 national general elections, mindful of the importance of life and at the same time exercising their constitutional right to elect new leaders into the 12th legislature.

The people of Vanuatu were divided politically, but united in Prayer against the coronavirus. It was evident through remarks, messages and comments seen on social media and in traditional media outlets that the country is strongly united through Prayers against the coronavirus, and at the same time, the desire to have a new government to direct the country for the next four years.

As official counting of the 2020 general elections began by the Electoral Commission, the Commission and the country lose the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, which was a blow and a loss to the nation.

Understandably, and in accordance to the respect of the Vanuatu people, the counting of the official results of the GE 2020 came to a temporary hold while legal procedures applied to find and appoint a new Chairman to the Electoral Commission. Added to this was a delay in ballot boxes returning from far north of the country as well as Penama island constituencies.

The country did not foresee another disaster ahead, the Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold which formed up north nearby Solomon Islands, but moved gradually moved towards Vanuatu. The country’s weather situation complicated the process of finalizing the official counting of the 2020 general elections.

By this time, the electors and the population of Vanuatu were anxious to know when the official results were to be officially declared. Despite, both the coronavirus onslaught around the world and in some countries in the Pacific region, and the threat of the approaching 5 category tropical cyclone Harold, Vanuatu stood firm and was never budged by both situations.

In the midst of it all, the coronavirus, the cyclone, the delays and other pressures on the nation, the caretaker Prime Minister and caretaker state ministers as well public servants, church leaders, custom chiefs, the women and youth leaders and the population of Vanuatu knew one common stand and that is to unite in prayers to keep Vanuatu and her people safe during the onslaught on Tropical Cyclone Harold, and to keep the coronavirus out of the country while adhering to protective measures in awareness to the nation by the health authorities and the national disaster management office (NDMO) and the call to stand united in the midst of the disasters storm.

Now, the TC Harold has left Vanuatu, the GE 2020 official results officially declared, and the national caretaker government and the NDMO and the people of Vanuatu take a united stand with common and simple understanding to keep the coronavirus out of the country, and at same time, deal with the aftermath of the TC Harold and the immediate needs of the people that lay ahead and see the formation of the new government to come on board and take over the executive reigns of the country.

Today, the 300,000 citizens and the residents are standing strong and united than ever before and determine to defeat both disasters at the end of the tunnel. TC Harold has left Vanuatu waters while knowingly it means added responsibilities to already heavy burden of coronavirus and the elections on the country and now the aftermath of the TC Harold to deal with.

The support by both the government, the private sector and the NGOs and the citizens and residents of the Republic of Vanuatu has been tremendous, is continuing and will continue into the future.

No matter how much the people of Vanuatu are suffering, they still stand united and keep up the spirit of unity at such times, which show resilience, unity in diversity through prayers pulling everyone together under the motto of the country “In God We Stand” and embracing “Small is beautiful”, “Peace is beautiful” and “In God We Stand”.

Vanuatu, our home and a resilient nation standing strong.

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