Learn more about specific causes in Vanuatu that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentVanuatu is prone to frequent natural disasters such as cyclones, which destroy roads and infrastructure and pollute water supplies.1 Soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and inadequate waste disposal are all contributing to environmental degradation and decreased agricultural and economic productivity on the islands.2 A large percentage of Vanuatu’s population depends on the agricultural sector for a living, and the increasing effects of climate change will hinder agricultural productivity.3 In 2015, the country was devastated by Cyclone Pam, which destroyed thousands of structures and killed a dozen people.4
FamilyAcross the islands, 13% of girls are married before their nineteenth birthday.1 Violence against women is also a rampant problem in Vanuatu. Approximately 60% of women in Vanuatu experience physical violence at the hands of a husband or partner. Additionally, 1 in 4 women experiences physical abuse from a non-partner. Moreover, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15.2
EducationThe Vanuatu government subsidizes primary education on the island, but many people still cannot afford to pay the school’s fee. Only 73% of students who start primary school complete it, and only 17% of children aged 13-16 attend secondary school.1 The adult literacy rate in Vanuatu was estimated to be 85% in 2015.2 Australia provides aid to improve children’s access to early elementary education, train teachers, and deliver resources and supplies to schools.3
PovertyApproximately 12% of Vanuatu’s population lives below the international poverty line, which is one of the lowest amongst Pacific Islands. 34.5% of the population has access to electricity.1 The unemployment rate is at 4.3%.2 Vanuatu's rural population relies largely on agriculture and subsistence farming, and the high population growth rate, coupled with the effects of natural disasters and climate change, is hindering the economic productivity of the islands’ agricultural sector.2
ReligionVanuatu is approximately 82% Christian. Of that group, 70% are Protestant and 12% are Catholic.1 About 6% of the population is Jewish and small groups of Muslims and Baha’is also exist. The constitution of Vanuatu protects religious freedom and this is generally well respected by the government and society. Reports of religious conflict and discrimination are largely nonexistent.2
Clean WaterApproximately 95% of Vanuatu’s population has access to drinking water sources, but only 57% of the population has access to improved sanitation infrastructure. 1 Vanuatu is also prone to frequent cyclones which destroy roads and infrastructure and pollute existing water supplies.2 Cyclone Pam destroyed many structures in 2015, leaving about half the population without water purification structures or sanitation facilities. It also polluted 70% of wells.3 In 2017, the Vanuatu government sponsored the implementation of a drill rig that would provide rural areas with access to groundwater.2
EconomyVanuatu’s economy is based mainly on small-scale agriculture, which employs around two-thirds of the total population. The islands are very vulnerable to natural disasters and Vanuatu’s extreme distance from other countries has made economic diversification and growth difficult. The two main countries that provide support, aid and tourists to Vanuatu are New Zealand and Australia.1 Australia provides millions of dollars in aid to Vanuatu , providing 54% of the country’s official development assistance.2 Corruption within the economy is a pervasive issue for Vanuatu and the need for institutional reforms is necessary for the economy to continue to grow. The country’s unemployment rate is around 4.3%.3
GovernmentVanuatu is a parliamentary republic with a President and a Prime Minister at the head of the governmental system. The country has a long history with several different types of colonizers, all who came from different countries. The last two colonial rulers were the British and the French. Vanuatu gained independence in 1980.1 Corruption within the government is a pervasive issue for Vanuatu. The need for institutional reforms is necessary for the economy to continue to grow.2
HealthThe estimated life expectancy for both males and females in Vanuatu is 72 years of age. Overall, the population of Vanuatu is very young and there is a high rate of population growth.1 Non Communicable and communicable diseases are common in Vanuatu. The most common causes of death for citizens of Vanuatu are heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Diarrheal diseases are the leading causes of death for children under 5 years old. Malnutrition and stunted growth are leading health issues for children.2
ChildrenVanuatu lacks a comprehensive policy regarding child labor. There are no mechanisms in place or social services to help children who have fallen victim to child labor or human trafficking.1 Australia is helping Vanuatu end violence against children through the provision of technical training and funds.2 The infant mortality rate in Vanuatu is currently 23 deaths per 1,000 live births.3 Child marriage is also a significant problem in Vanuatu, and across the islands 13% of girls are married before their nineteenth birthday. Child marriage is most frequent among poor, uneducated families in rural areas. Increasing educational opportunities have been shown to decrease the prevalence of child marriage.4
Human RightsViolence against women is one of the most significant human rights concerns in Vanuatu. Sexual harassment does not violate the law and is very common. Traditional marriage practices such as dowries perpetuate a culture of male dominance.1 Approximately 60% of women in Vanuatu experience physical violence at the hands of a husband or partner. Additionally, 1 in 4 women experiences physical abuse from a non-partner. Moreover, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 15.2 Other human rights violations include police violence, poor prison conditions, arrests without warrants, and government corruption.1
AnimalsThere is a limited variety of wildlife in Vanuatu because of the islands’ isolated location. The surrounding waters are filled with a wide array of wildlife, such as whales, shellfish, and many other kinds of fish. Many birds are migratory waterfowls.1 Vanuatu has one national park and over 100 areas designated as wildlife protection areas.2
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