Vanuatu

Region: 
Did you know: 

At the 2013 CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu offered to host CHOGM 2017.

Vanuatu is an archipelago comprising a double chain of about 40 islands and 40 islets and rocks of volcanic and coral origin (about 65 inhabited), some islands having active volcanoes and many being steeply mountainous, rising on Espíritu Santo to over 1,800 metres; fresh water is plentiful. The country has more than 2,500 km of coastline.

Vanuatuans enjoy life expectancy of some 71 years.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1980
Population: 
253,000 (2013)
GDP: 
0.6% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 
World ranking 131
Official language: 
Bislama, English, French
Timezone: 
GMT plus 11hr
Currency: 
vatu (Vt)

Geography

Area: 
12,190 sq km
Coastline: 
2,530km
Capital city: 
Port Vila
Population density (per sq. km): 
21

The Republic of Vanuatu’s land area is made up of a group of islands in the south-west Pacific, lying south of Solomon Islands and east of the state of Queensland in Australia.

The country comprises six provinces: Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea and Torba.

Main towns: 

Port Vila (capital, pop. 47,500 in 2010) and Mele (2,500) on Efaté; Luganville (13,800) and Port Olry (2,900) on Espíritu Santo; Norsup (2,400) on Malakula; and Isangel (1,700) on Tanna.

Transport: 

There are 1,070 km of roads, 24 per cent paved, most of which are on Efaté.

Ferries link the islands. Additionally, there are shipping services, run by a number of operators, to Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The main ports are Port Vila and Luganville.

The chief airports are at Bauerfield, near Port Vila, and Pekoa on Espíritu Santo Island; there are some 30 smaller airfields.

International relations: 

Vanuatu is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Organization approved Vanuatu’s accession in October 2011; the Vanuatu Parliament passed enabling legislation in December 2011; and the country became a full member of the organisation on 24 August 2012.

Topography: 

Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago, some 900 km long. It forms a double chain of about 40 mountainous islands and 40 islets and rocks of volcanic and coral origin; about 65 of these are inhabited. Some islands (including Tanna, Lopévi and Ambrym) have active volcanoes. Many of the rocky islands are steeply mountainous, the highest peaks (on Espíritu Santo) rising to over 1,800 metres. Fresh water is plentiful.

Climate: 

Oceanic tropical, with south-east trade winds from May to October. The period from November to April is humid, with moderate rainfall. Cyclones may occur between November and April.

Environment: 

The most significant environmental issues are that a majority of the population does not have access to a safe and reliable supply of water (although it is improving), and deforestation.

Vegetation: 

The rocky islands are thickly forested, with narrow coastal plains where cultivation is possible. Forest covers 36 per cent of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2012.

Wildlife: 

Vanuatu is home to 11 species of bat, including white flying-fox. It is also the easternmost habitation of dugongs, also known as sea-cows. Espíritu Santo has the richest bird population, with 55 species including incubator birds which leave their eggs to incubate in hot volcanic sand from which the young birds emerge fully fledged. Seven mammal species and nine bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

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