In the mountains of Kumera on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, the village women of Kamahaul normally spend over 10,000 Vatu ($83 USD) to travel to the nearest hospital.
It takes an hour to travel up the steep, rugged, tire-track terrain by car, but it takes two hours by foot - the normal form of commute for villagers.
Alani*, a 22-year-old mother of three, said that after Tropical Cyclones Kevin and Judy hit Vanuatu in March 2023, it has been even harder to travel to the hospital.
“After the cyclone, my crops were destroyed. I usually take my kids with me to the market and sell produce but after the cyclone, I do not have any money. If I have to go to the hospital for my 3-month injectable [contraceptive], I spend 5,000 Vatu one way, then 500 for medicine at hospital then I pay 5,000 Vatu to come back.” This is equivalent to over 100 AUD, which is unaffordable for most people like Alani.
Village spokesperson, Jimmy, said that the community is grateful for the Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA) as they are the first medical team to visit the remote community.
“I feel sorry for our mamas, they must spend so much money just to get medicine,” he said. “In our village, we have a lot of young single mothers and most of the time, trucks refuse to come up here because of the bad road. They must walk for two hours just to get to the main road, sometimes whilst pregnant, holding bags and their many children. This is why I invited VFHA to come here, so women don’t have to spend so much money and time just to get health services.”
The outreach programme was part of VFHA’s humanitarian response to the cyclone.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the testimonies of hardships shared by the women in this community,” said Kalowi Kaltapangm VFHA Programme Manager. “Girls and women should not be paying over 100 AUD just to have access to sexual reproductive health services – it is not right. We thank Australia through DFAT for allowing us to reach more people post-disaster.”
Jimmy added that the community is grateful for the VFHA visit and hopes they set up a clinic in Kumera.
“After Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin, we lost about 21 homes across the communities here and most of the food crops are gone. If you travel further, you will still see some families still in tents. People are still rebuilding their lives and it's hard to rebuild if women fall pregnant again.’
The VFHA response team reached a total of 21 communities and more than 3,000 beneficiaries across Tafea Province. This included mobile outreach to 15 communities on Tanna Island, three communities on Futuna and three communities in Aneityum.