|VANUATU COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Vanuatu within the Geographic Region of Oceania
Map of Vanuatu
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) all separated by a black-edged yellow stripe in the shape of a horizontal Y (the two points of the Y face the hoist side and enclose the triangle); centered in the triangle is a boar's tusk encircling two crossed namele fern fronds, all in yellow; red represents the blood of boars and men, green the richness of the islands, and black the ni-Vanuatu people; the yellow Y-shape - which reflects the pattern of the islands in the Pacific Ocean - symbolizes the light of the Gospel spreading through the islands; the boar's tusk is a symbol of prosperity frequently worn as a pendant on the islands; the fern fronds represent peace
Official name Ripablik blong Vanuatu (Bislama); République de Vanuatu (French); Republic of Vanuatu (English)
Form of government republic with one legislative house (Parliament )
Head of state President: Baldwin Lonsdale
Head of government Prime Minister: Joe Natuman
Official languages Bislama; French; English
Official religion none
Monetary unit vatu (Vt)
Population (2013 est.) 265,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 4,707
Total area (sq km) 12,190
- Urban: (2012) 24.6%
- Rural: (2012) 75.4%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 70.5 years
- Female: (2012) 73.6 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2010) 85.7%
- Female: (2010) 83.9%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 3,130
Background of Vanuatu
Vanuatu, country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, consisting of a chain of 13 principal and many smaller islands located about 500 miles (800 km) west of Fiji and 1,100 miles (1,770 km) east of Australia. The islands extend north-south for some 400 miles (650 km) in an irregular Y shape. The Torres Islands are the northernmost group. Southward from the Torres group, the main islands are Vanua Lava and Santa Maria (Gaua) in the Banks Islands group, Espiritu Santo, Aoba (Ambae), Maéwo, Pentecost, Malakula, Ambrym, Épi, Éfaté, Erromango, Tanna, and Anatom. Some 200 miles (320 km) to the southeast of Anatom, two uninhabited islands, Hunter and Matthew, are claimed by both Vanuatu and France (as part of New Caledonia). Formerly the jointly administered Anglo-French condominium of the New Hebrides, Vanuatu achieved independence in 1980. The name Vanuatu means “Our Land Forever” in many of the locally used Melanesian languages. The capital, largest city, and commercial centre is Port-Vila (Vila), on Éfaté.
Geography of Vanuatu
A diverse relief—ranging from rugged mountains and high plateaus to rolling hills and low plateaus, with coastal terraces and offshore coral reefs—characterizes the islands. Sedimentary and coral limestones and volcanic rock predominate; frequent earthquakes indicate structural instability. Active volcanoes are found on several islands, including Séré’ama on Vanua Lava, Manaro on Aoba, Garet on Santa Maria, the twin volcanic vents of Benbow and Marum on Ambrym, and Yasur on Tanna. There are also several submarine volcanoes in the group, and some islands have solfataras or fumaroles. The highest point is Tabwémasana, 6,165 feet (1,879 metres), on Espiritu Santo, the largest island. There are two seasons—hot and wet from November to April, and cooler and drier from May to October. The southeast trades are the prevailing winds, although northerlies during the hot season provide most of the heavy rainfall. Annual precipitation varies from about 80 inches (2,000 mm) in the south to some 160 inches (4,000 mm) in the northern islands. Much of the group is covered by dense rain forest, but drier regions have patches of savanna grassland. Abundant bird and insect life contrasts with the sparse fauna. Of the approximately 10 types of bats found in Vanuatu, three are found only there.
Demography of Vanuatu
The indigenous population, called ni-Vanuatu, is overwhelmingly Melanesian, though some of the outlying islands have Polynesian populations. There are also small minorities of Europeans, Micronesians, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Roughly three-fourths of the population lives in rural areas, but since independence the urban centres of Luganville and Port-Vila have drawn a significant number of people attracted by better opportunities. More than 100 local Melanesian languages and dialects are spoken; Bislama, an English-based Melanesian pidgin, is the national language and, along with English and French, is one of three official languages. Some seven-tenths of the population is Protestant, and of that proportion about one-third is Presbyterian. Other denominations and religions include Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, traditional beliefs, and cargo cults.
Economy of Vanuatu
Subsistence agriculture has traditionally been the economic base of Vanuatu, together with an elaborate exchange network within and between islands. Economic changes occurred with the development of European plantations in the island group after 1867: cotton was the initial crop, followed by corn (maize), coffee, cocoa beans, and coconuts (for copra). Cattle ranching was instituted later. By the 1880s French planters had reversed the initial British domination of the plantation sector, though they too found it increasingly difficult to compete with ni-Vanuatu producers, who could fall back on subsistence agriculture in times of economic downturn. French hopes of economic hegemony, based on high world prices for copra and the importation of Vietnamese labour in the 1920s, were dashed by the Great Depression of the 1930s. By 1948 most of the copra in the island group was being produced by the ni-Vanuatu themselves, though it was not until the development of cooperatives in the 1970s that they were finally able to assume control of the trade.
Kava, beef, copra, timber, and cocoa are the most important exports; the European Union, Australia, New Caledonia, and Japan are the main export destinations. Imports—mainly of machinery and transport equipment, food and live animals, and mineral fuels—come principally from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Singapore. Because of its vulnerability to weather and commodity market fluctuations, Vanuatu is working toward supplementing large-scale agriculture with stronger extractive, manufacturing, and service sectors to foster its long-term economic growth.
Since independence, Vanuatu’s tourism and offshore financial services have emerged as the largest earners of foreign income. The growing lucre generated by tourism has attracted the attention of foreign companies seeking to develop land into resorts and other attractions. Although, according to the 1980 constitution, all land in Vanuatu is under ni-Vanuatu customary collective ownership and cannot be sold to foreigners, increasing interest from abroad in the late 20th and early 21st centuries prompted the government to allow land to be leased for 75-year periods. Such leases were often negotiated to the disadvantage of ni-Vanuatu, however; many included, for example, a provision that, at the end of the 75 years, the customary owners could regain their lands only by paying in full the cost of any development. In the early 21st century there was concern that such provisions would mean the permanent alienation of customarily owned lands.
Forestry, important in the islands’ early colonial history but later eclipsed by plantation agriculture, has also grown in importance. Much of the country is forested (including areas of sandalwood and other valuable tropical species). Because the majority of trees felled during the 1980s were exported as unsawn logs, in the early 1990s the government banned exports of roundwood and limited the annual harvest. Earnings from processed wood (mostly sawn on small portable mills) grew as a result, and wood products accounted for a small but significant proportion of exports in the early 21st century. The sale of commercial fishing rights is another important source of foreign revenue, and there is extensive small-scale fishing for local consumption. Mining of manganese ore on Éfaté ended in the 1970s, but later surveys identified a number of remaining deposits there as well as the likely existence of exploitable gold, copper, and petroleum reserves elsewhere in the islands.
On most of Vanuatu’s islands, unpaved roads link coastal settlements; there are few interior roads. Interisland transportation is by boat or airplane. Major airports are located near Port-Vila, near Luganville on Espiritu Santo, and on the northwest side of Tanna. Many smaller airfields are scattered throughout the islands.
Government and Society of Vanuatu
Culture Life of Vanuatu
Vanuatu may be divided into three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by how much one can give away. Pigs are considered a symbol of wealth. The central areas have Polynesian systems with hereditary chiefs, and a class system, complete with nobles and commoners. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has developed. There, women hold low status.
Throughout the islands, life is characterized by a constant cycle of rituals. There are rituals for birth, for the achievement of status, for marriage, and for death. Mothers pay the uncles of boys to be circumcized—the boys are taken into the bush for weeks, where they have their foreskins removed and are introduced to the ways of manhood. From that point they no longer run naked, but wear a penis sheath.
With no written language, story telling, songs, and dances hold great importance. Art, from body decorations and tattoos to elaborate masks, hats, and carvings, is a vital part of ritual celebrations and the social life of the village.
The music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in the 1990s, and several bands have forged a distinctive Vanuatuan identity—especially bands like Huarere and Tropic Tempo, XX-Squad, and artists like Vanessa Quai. Traditional instruments are the "tamtam," an intricately carved drum created from a log, as well as panpipes, conch shells, and gongs.
The University of the South Pacific, an educational institution co-owned by twelve Pacific Island countries, has campuses in Port Vila and two other centers. The Vanuatu campus houses the university's only law school.
During World War II, the islands of Éfaté and Espiritu Santo were used as allied military bases. Soldiers brought modern industrial goods, which prompted the development of several cargo cults. These are movements attempting to obtain industrial goods through magic and religion. The cargo cults believe that manufactured western goods (cargo) have been created by ancestral spirits and are intended for Melanesian people. White people, it is believed, have unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focus on overcoming what they perceive as undue "white" influences by conducting rituals similar to the white behavior they have observed, presuming that the ancestors will at last recognize their own and this activity will make cargo come.
The classic period of cargo cult activity, however, was in the years during and after the Second World War. The vast amounts of war matériel that were airdropped into these islands during the Pacific campaign against the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders. Manufactured clothing, canned food, tents, weapons and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers—and also the islanders who were their guides and hosts.
By the end of the war the airbases were abandoned, and "cargo" was no longer being dropped. In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood, and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.
One such cult revolved around the belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum (believed to be derived from "John from America"), promising Melanesian deliverance. John Frum continues as both a religious movement and a political party, with two members in Parliament in 2006.
History of Vanuatu
Vanuatu has been inhabited since at least 1000 B.C.; remains of the Lapita culture from that time have been excavated. Legends dating to the 15th cent. describe a huge explosion in the South Pacific; in 1993 a scientist suggested that the Vanuatan islands of Tongoa and Epi (since separated by the island of Kuwae) were created in 1453 when a larger island was split in two by an enormous volcanic explosion. The archipelago was visited in 1606 by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandez de Queiros, and in 1774 Capt. James Cook made the first systematic exploration of the islands, which became known as the New Hebrides.
English missionaries began arriving in the early 19th cent. With them came the "sandalwooders," who, once the local sources of sandalwood ran out, began kidnapping natives for the sugar and cotton plantations in Queensland, Australia. British attempts to halt the decimation of the native population met success in 1887, when the islands were placed under an Anglo-French naval commission. The commission was replaced by a condominium in 1906. During World War II the islands served as bases for Allied forces in the Pacific theater.
In 1980 the New Hebrides became independent as Vanuatu, and a secession movement on Espiritu Santo was put down with aid from Papua New Guinea and Britain. A coalition government led by Prime Minister Maxime Carlot took office in 1991. Jean-Marie Léyé was elected president in 1994. Carlot's government lost power after the 1995 general elections, but the new coalition foundered, and Corlot again was prime minister from April to September in 1996, when Serge Vohor took office. After new elections in 1998, Donald Kalpokas became prime minister, but a no-confidence motion in 1999, led to his resignation, and Barak Sopé succeeded him. Also in 1999, John Bernard Bani was elected president. Edward Natapei replaced Sopé as prime minister in 2001.
Alfred Maseng became the country's fifth president in Apr., 2004, but he was removed from office the following month. After parliamentary elections in July, Serge Vohor became prime minister for a second time, and in August, Kalkot Mataskelekele was elected president. Vohor's government fell in Dec., 2004, after government ministers resigned over actions he had taken without consulting with them; Ham Lini succeeded him.
Elections in 2008 brought a new governing coalition, with Natapei again as prime minister, into office. In 2009, Iolu Johnson Abil was elected president. Natapei was ousted in no-confidence vote in Dec., 2010, and Sato Kilman succeeded him. Kilman was ousted four months later and Vohor replaced him, but in May, 2011, the no-confidence vote was declared unconstitutional and Kilman restored to office. In June, Kilman's election also was voided. Natapei became prime minister pending a new vote, in which Kilman was reelected. Kilman remained prime minister after the 2012 elections but resigned prior to a no-confidence vote in Mar., 2013. Moana Carcasses succeeded him.
Typhoon Hits Vanuatu 2015
Huge cyclone in Pacific devastates Vanuatu, at least eight dead (3/14/15)
By Christopher McCall
SYDNEY (Reuters) - One of the Pacific Ocean's most powerful ever storms devastated the island nation of Vanuatu on Saturday, tearing off roofs, uprooting trees and killing at least eight people with the toll set to rise, aid officials said.
The United Nations was preparing a major relief operation and Australia said it was ready to offer its neighbour whatever help it could. With winds up to 340 kph (210 mph), Cyclone Pam left Vanuatu cut off, with little power, poor communications and a looming threat of hunger and thirst. Unconfirmed reports said the number of dead could run into dozens but aid workers said it would be days or weeks before the full impact was known. "It felt like the world was going to end," Alice Clements, a spokeswoman for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said from Vanuatu. "It's like a bomb has gone off in the centre of the town. There is no power. There is no water." Tom Skirrow, country director for the Save the Children aid group, told Reuters that Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office had confirmed eight dead and 20 injured. He said he expected those figures to rise substantially.
Aid workers in Papua New Guinea said at least one person had been killed by the storm there. Satellite photographs showed the storm covering virtually all of Vanuatu, a sprawling country of 83 islands and 260,000 people 2,000 km (1,250 miles) northeast of the Australian city of Brisbane.
The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, told a disaster risk conference in Japan he had no confirmed report of the impact of the storm but he appealed to the world to "give a lending hand".
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Canberra would be willing to offer Vanuatu whatever help it could. Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu was jointly ruled by France and Britain until independence in 1980. It is among the world's poorest countries and highly prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and storms.
Witnesses described sea surges of up to eight metres (26 feet) and flooding throughout the capital, Port Vila, after the category 5 cyclone hit late on Friday.
Aid officials said the storm could be unprecedented in the island's history and one of the worst natural disasters the Pacific region has ever experienced. They said the storm was comparable in strength to Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013 and killed more than 6,000 people. FEARING THE WORST
Chloe Morrison a spokeswoman for the World Vision aid group said the storm had been terrifying. "Trees are across the roads. Some of them are piled up so you can barely see over them,” she said. “There are reports that there have been casualties across all of the islands.
"This is going to need a long and sustained response. People in Vanuatu are subsistence farmers. They grow food for their own consumption. Crops will be absolutely wiped out from this.” Outlying islands may take weeks to reach, aid officials said, while a lack of clean water and widespread damage to crops meant the situation could deteriorate sharply in coming days.
There were no reports of looting but Skirrow described men whose homes had been destroyed walking the streets of Port Vila with machetes and families huddling without shelter after their flimsy homes of thatch were torn away by the wind and rain. Many residents were in evacuation centres, he said, but the authorities were ill prepared.
"These people are homeless now. These people are going to be there for probably six weeks," Skirrow said. As darkness fell on Saturday, the storm was moving off to the south but the wind was still strong. U.N. relief workers were gearing up for a rapid response on Sunday, with members drawn from as far away as Europe. However, with the airport closed and high wind still blowing it was not clear how they could reach Vanuatu. Sune Gudnitz, regional head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said sending in military aircraft was an option, possibly from Australia. "We fear the worst."
(Editing by Kim Coghill and Robert Birsel)
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