Restoring normalcy post-crises focus of Vanuatu's Children's Day

The UN children's agency in Vanuatu says motivating children to return to school is its key focus for today's public holiday, Children's Day.

The event is part of a nine day celebration marking Vanuatu's 40th independence anniversary.

However the occasion was bittersweet in some ways.

UNICEF's Communications Officer, Rebecca Olul, said while Children's Day in the south would be festival-like, it would be different in the north.

Olul said the dual crises of April's Cyclone Harold and the Covid-19 pandemic had turned children's lives upside down.

In the cyclone-ravaged north, a third of the country's lives were put on hold including 24,000 children who had been out of school since April.

Olul said the longer they were away, the less likely they were to return.

She pointed out that Covid-19 had also hampered the recovery with some children only just resuming school.

"The focus is really on motivating children to return to school because of course we know that the longer children are away from school the less likely they are to return.

"Of course this motivation we know is not just children but it's targeting parents with messaging around, you know, children returning to a more normal environment," Olul said.

However, the Port Vila-based officer said even those that had returned faced challenges.

"A lot of them in temporary learning spaces including tents and temporary shelters where they can continue learning while waiting for more permanent infrastructure to be built.

"Of course we know that all of that takes a long time and it's a long term process."