Pamela: Child of the Cyclone

Date Publish: 
Asia / Vanuatu


Somewhere, out on the Pacific swell, a dot in the ocean off the shores of storm-lashed Vanuatu, there is a fishing boat. And on it, is a man who doesn’t yet know he’s a father.

His family got word that his boat and all souls on it are safe, hundreds of kilometres away. But that’s all they know, they didn’t manage to pass word that they are safe too, and that his wife gave birth on a classroom floor as Cyclone Pam raged all round. Finally, he doesn’t know that his first-born child’s name has already been chosen.

She’s Pamela, of course .

Her mother, Katelina Ialoo (30) says the 12-hour labour, assisted only by other mothers, was “easy”.  These Vanuatuans, they are made of strong stuff.

I ask her what she wants for her child, in the future. She thinks for a long time, so long that I think she’s forgotten I am there. Finally she says, “I want her to work for the church, because God helped us through the storm.”

Pamela and Katelina are just two of the 200 evacuees at Fresh Wota School, on the edge of Vanuatu’s sleepy capital, Port Vila. Regina, a teacher who is assisting with ensuring there is enough food and water to go around, says Pamela is one of two babies born that night – the other has already gone back to her family’s house, which survived the cyclone. But there are another 16 women between five and seven months pregnant, as well as ten disabled people.

In comparison with some of the islands IOM has visited, the Fresh Wota school is comfortable, well organized and slowly emptying as people repair their homes. It is hoped that all evacuation centres can soon be closed and that people can get back to their houses. IOM will be assisting the Government of Vanuatu as much as possible in that regard, supplying tools, timbers, roofing material and other essentials to ensure their safe and humane return.

Meanwhile, the Organization is also training enumerators to assist in implementing the Displacement Tracking Matrix – an IOM-developed tool which provides a near-realtime picture of needs and capacities in evacuation centres. It is estimated that there are some 4,000 people living in churches, schools and other large public buildings. 

Baby Pamela Ialoo with her mother Katelina.  © IOM/Joe Lowry 2015
Children at the Fresh Wota school, Port Vila. © IOM/Joe Lowry 2015
IOM surge team member Wonesai Sithole training a group of enumerators to implement the Displacement Tracking Matrix. © IOM/Joe Lowry 2015