Churches of Christ Medical Santo responds to Ambae Volcano Emergency, Vanuatu

Since early September, there has been an unfolding emergency situation in Vanuatu due to increasing activity of the active Monaro Voui volcano on the northern island of Ambae. Since this time, large clouds of volcanic ash have been released and seismic activity and eruptions have continued. On 26 September the Vanuatu Government declared a State of Emergency for the island of Ambae and this was followed by an order to evacuate the entire population of approximately 11,500 people, many of whom had already fled to the coastal areas, by 6 October .

The evacuations began on Saturday 30 September, with local shipping companies bringing people by boat. As of 2 October, approx. 4,500 people had arrived on Santo. Medical Santo, a locally registered primary health care clinic, supported by Churches of Christ in Queensland and Vanuatu, was invited to be part of the medical service response team by the Sanma Disaster Committee.

Lyn Cox, Executive Manager, shares: “Medical Santo has been tasked to assess and triage any evacuees with health issues who arrive in Santo by ship. Those needing urgent treatment are being sent to the Northern Provincial Hospital and Medical Santo is treating less serious evacuees at their clinic to support the heavy workload of the Northern Provincial Hospital”.

Our churches are affected by the emergency and are a key part of the local response. Ambae is a predominately Churches of Christ island. Churches of Christ Global Mission Partners released an update on 29 September stating “Esline Thomavute, the General Secretary of the Conference of Churches of Christ in Vanuatu, comments ‘All of our 33 church congregations on Ambae are affected2.’

The Vunamele Church of Christ in Santo which is next door to the Churches of Christ Conference Headquarters in Vanuatu is the primary processing location for all Ambae arrivals on Santo. They are providing an initial meal and registration and people are being directed from there to emergency accommodation.

Mike Folland, a Churches of Christ in Queensland employee who lived and served in Vanuatu for a number of years, was in the country on holiday with his family and spent some time supporting those at the reception and processing centre over the weekend of 1-2 October. “It was encouraging and humbling to see the response of Vanuatu Churches of Christ congregations and the team at Medical Santo to help receive and process the significant numbers of internally displaced people from Ambae. But the challenge for the government and local groups is to provide ongoing accommodation, food, clean water and sanitation to support thousands of displaced people. Our prayers are with all those affected and those who are responding and we are thankful that our churches and Medical Santo are able to serve their communities in a time like this.”

Please pray for all those local and international agencies and churches who are responding to this unfolding crisis, and for those who have had to leave their homes on Ambae, not knowing when they will be able to return or what they will return to.

To support Medical Santo as they triage arrivals and provide ongoing care to Ambae evacuees who are in need of medical attention, please visit our donations page.

Global Mission Partners will shortly launch an appeal to assist the churches as they respond to this emergency. Visit or find GMP on Facebook for updates.


Posted October 4, 2017 in Media releases