Program commenced: 1966
Total number of placements: 555 (as of 6 July, 2011)
Number of current placements: 17 (as of 6 July, 2011)
AVI Programs: Volunteer Program, PACTAF, PACTAM, NKDT Community Education Program, Vanuatu Teachers and Administrative Support Program, Vanuatu Secondary Teachers Education Project, Vanuatu Urban Infrastructure Project - Engineers, Vanuatu Secondary Schools Extension Project, M2006 Games Sport Development Volunteers (SDVP), Planning Institute of Australia Volunteer Support phase 1, Youth Program, Melanesian Women’s Tour
Vanuatu is a group of over 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Colonised by France and the UK in 1906, the islands, then known as New Hebrides, were shared by both countries until independence in 1980 and given the name Vanuatu.
Agriculture, fishing and offshore financial services are the main industries and Vanuatu is a popular tourist destination, especially for Australians.
AVI have been placing volunteers in Vanuatu since 1966, historically focusing on Education and Health, with a slightly broader spectrum of involvement these days.
Vanuatu's geographic constraints and the lack of job opportunities have contributed to growing poverty in the country. About 50 per cent of its population live below the $1-per-day poverty line. There are wide income disparities between urban, and rural and outer island areas. This is largely a result of low agricultural productivity and poor infrastructure facilities and basic services in rural and outer island areas. Most development efforts have been concentrated in the two principal urban centres.
Education, although improving, still lags behind the developing countries of east Asia and the Pacific; indeed it trails behind lower middle-income countries generally. As of 2004, adult literacy was at only 74 per cent of the population and while primary education is near-universal, secondary enrolment levels are under 40 per cent of (secondary) school-aged children.
Health indicators in Vanuatu have improved in recent years. However, further improvement to medical infrastructure and increased trained medical personnel are still key priorities. There are only 11 doctors for every 100,000 people in Vanuatu (and the majority of these are filled by people from other countries) and only 23.5 nurses for every 10,000 (1997). This situation is compounded by the fact that the population of Vanuatu is spread out over the archipelago. This makes it much more difficult to provide cost effective health services to the outer islands.
Malaria continues to present a risk in Vanuatu. Early diagnosis and treatment is improving and infection rates are being lowered by better preventative action such as the use of mosquito nets. Poor nutrition of mothers and infants is also a major health concern. Vanuatu also reported its first HIV case in 2002.
For up-to-date information and statistics on health in Vanuatu, please refer to the WHO Vanuatu country profile.
With increasing population and urbanisation and as the community moves to a greater reliance on cash incomes, daily activities are resulting in reef depletion, soil erosion, contamination from inadequate waste disposal and reduced biodiversity.
Rural communities depend on their immediate environments for most of the resources for subsistence living and commercial income generation. The increasing human population places increasing pressures on the resources available. Food gardens must be expanded, additional wild foods harvested, fishing effort increased. Simultaneously the increasing need to generate a cash income is leading to increased planting of permanent commercial crops such as palm oil and increased commercial fishing and production of timber. This conversion of natural systems to human production systems is recognised as a significant threat to biodiversity in Vanuatu. The challenge is to find locally appropriate systems that meet human needs while maintaining biodiversity.
Exploitation of resources is also beginning to have significant environmental consequences. Key concerns include over fishing, chemical run-off from crop spraying and land degradation.
For further information, please refer to the following resources: