After Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated the island nation of Vanuatu, located in the South Pacific, its authorities asked for aid, but also for books. It turns out that books can play an important role in case of emergency relief efforts.
When Haiti was hit by a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the Haitian asked for books, in addition to food, shelter and clothing. So did the people of Vanuatu.
The island was hit by Tropical Cyclone Pam on March 13. The 83 small islands that make up the South Pacific archipelago were devastated by what was considered to be the worst storm to ever hit the Pacific region. Almost half of the 250,000 strong population was affected by the disaster.
The cyclone has destroyed hospitals, homes and stores, but also schools. Among them was the largest school in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital city. It’s roof was blown off by the storm and thousands of books were destroyed. The school made an international appeal for new books.
Paul Alexander Hetyey, the school’s headmaster, said that in order to reopen the school soon, he needs books.
The school’s teachers and many volunteers were able to save some books, which have been gathered from the debris and laid out in the sun to dry.
“There are a lot of book warehouses out there. We need good books, encyclopedias, reading books, reference books on all subjects from kindergarten to young adult books” Hetyey said, according to Reuters.
It’s a wish common to those expressed by other nations after natural disasters. Besides food, shelter, clothing and emergency supplies, many countries have expressed a desire for books. According to a recent campaign, reading and writing are essential to reconstruction and healing in case of humanitarian emergencies.
The Urgency of Reading petition states that books should be a vital part of emergency relief efforts after natural disasters.
“While there is no question that organizations and governments must devote the majority of their efforts to promoting the physical wellbeing of disaster victims, more attention should be given to nourishing the mind as a second measure to help victims cope with catastrophe and move forward,” the petition states.
The first email Libraries Without Borders got after the Haitian earthquake back in 2010 was a demand for books in order to reopen a library.