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Cyclone Pam: Volunteer B.C. doctor seeks help for Vanuatu victims

03/16/2015 11:28 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
A volunteer doctor from Victoria, B.C. who recently returned from volunteering in Vanuatu says its people are hurting and need help.  

Dr. Jeff Unger is hoping to raise awareness of the devastation caused by a cyclone on the small Pacific island nation.

Cyclone Pam wreaked havoc on Vanuatu over the weekend leaving at least 24 people dead and displacing more than 3,000.

The vast number of remote islands in the country has made it difficult to get a clear picture of how much damage has actually been done.

Unger returned from Vanuatu on Feb. 15. He and his family were there for seven months while he volunteered with the Victoria-Vanuatu Physician Project delivering basic medical care to residents of Tanna Island.

"They're part of a very poor developing country that was unfairly hit by this," said Unger. "I just know and worry so much the devastation this will wreak and the years it will take for them to rebuild."

Unger says of the 30,000 people who live on the island, the majority are subsistence farmers with few possessions. The hospital where he volunteered only had 48 beds to provide care for all of them.

"The medical facilities were very bare-bones to begin with," says Unger. "It was very rudimentary care that we tried to provide."

Power, water and basic diagnostic tools were in limited supply, as were medications like antibiotics, according to Unger.

Fighting a strong desire to hop on a plane to return and help, Unger is raising awareness to help fund raise for organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, which he says are better equipped to deal with emergency situations.

He's also encouraging Canadians to contact their MPs so the federal government will deploy its Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Victoria doctor pleading with Canadians to help Vanuatu

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