VANUATU (English: /ˌvɑːnuˈɑːtu/ (_ listen ) vah-noo-AH-too_ or
/vænˈwɑːtu/ _van-WAH-too_ ;
Bislama , French IPA: ); officially
the REPUBLIC OF VANUATU (French: _République de Vanuatu_,
_Ripablik blong Vanuatu_), is a
Pacific island nation located in the
Pacific Ocean. The archipelago , which is of volcanic origin, is
some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern
Australia , 540
kilometres (340 mi) northeast of
New Caledonia , east of
New Guinea ,
southeast of the
Solomon Islands , and west of
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. The first Europeans
to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese
navigator Fernandes de Queirós , who arrived on the largest island in
1606. As the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies had been unified under
the king of
Spain in 1580 (following the vacancy of the Portuguese
throne , which lasted for sixty years, until 1640, when the Portuguese
monarchy was restored), Queirós claimed the archipelago for Spain, as
part of the colonial
Spanish East Indies , and named it _La Austrialia
del Espíritu Santo_.
In the 1880s,
France and the
United Kingdom claimed parts of the
archipelago, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly
managing the archipelago as the
New Hebrides through an Anglo–French
condominium . An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the
Vanuatu was founded in 1980.
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 3 Geography
* 3.1 Flora and fauna
* 3.2 Climate
* 3.2.1 Tropical cyclones
* 3.3 Earthquakes
* 4 Government
* 4.1 Politics
* 4.2 Foreign relations
* 4.3 Armed forces
* 4.4 Administrative divisions
* 5 Economy
* 5.1 Communications
* 6 Demographics
* 6.1 Languages
* 6.2 Religion
* 7 Health
* 8 Education
* 9 Culture
* 9.1 Music
* 9.2 Cuisine
* 9.3 Sports
* 10 See also
* 11 Notes
* 12 References
* 13 Bibliography
* 14 Further reading
* 15 External links
Vanuatu's name is derived from the word _vanua _ ("land" or "home"),
which occurs in several
Austronesian languages , and the word _tu_
("stand"). Together the two words indicated the independent status of
the new country.
History of Vanuatu
The prehistory of
Vanuatu is obscure; archaeological evidence
supports the theory that people speaking
Austronesian languages first
came to the islands about 3,300 years ago. Pottery fragments have
been found dating to 1300–1100 BCE.
Vanuatu group of islands first had contact with Europeans in
1606, when the Portuguese explorer
Pedro Fernandes de Queirós ,
sailing for the Spanish Crown , arrived on the largest island and
called the group of islands _La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo_ or "The
Southern Land of the Holy Spirit", believing he had arrived in Terra
Australis or Australia. The Spanish established a short-lived
settlement at Big Bay on the north side of the island. The name
Espiritu Santo remains to this day.
Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de
Bougainville rediscovered the islands on 22 May, naming them the Great
Cyclades . In 1774,
Captain Cook named the islands the New Hebrides,
a name that would last until independence in 1980. James Cook
landing at Tanna island , c. 1774
In 1825, the trader
Peter Dillon 's discovery of sandalwood on the
Erromango began a rush of immigrants that ended in 1830
after a clash between immigrant Polynesian workers and indigenous
Melanesians. During the 1860s, planters in Australia, Fiji, New
Caledonia, and the
Samoa Islands, in need of labourers, encouraged a
long-term indentured labour trade called "blackbirding ". At the
height of the labour trade, more than one-half the adult male
population of several of the islands worked abroad. Fragmentary
evidence indicates that the current population of
Vanuatu is greatly
reduced compared to pre-contact times.
In the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries from Europe
and North America went to the islands to work with the people. For
example, John Geddie , a
Scots-Canadian presbyterian missionary,
arrived at the island of
Aneityum in 1848; he spent the rest of his
life there, working to convert the inhabitants to Christianity and
John Gibson Paton was a Scottish missionary who devoted
his life to the region.
Settlers came looking for land on which to establish cotton
plantations. When international cotton prices collapsed, planters
switched to coffee, cocoa, bananas, and, most successfully, coconuts.
Initially, British subjects from
Australia made up the majority of
settlers, but the establishment of the Caledonian Company of the New
Hebrides in 1882 attracted more French subjects. By the start of the
20th century, the French outnumbered the British two to one. US
Navy Hellcats on
Espiritu Santo island in February 1944
The jumbling of French and British interests in the islands brought
petitions for one or other of the two powers to annex the territory.
France and the
United Kingdom agreed to administer the
islands jointly. Called the Anglo-French condominium, it was a unique
form of government. The separate governmental systems came together
only in a joint court.
Melanesians were barred from acquiring the
citizenship of either power.
Challenges to this form of government began in the early 1940s. The
arrival of Americans during the
Second World War
Second World War , with their informal
habits and relative wealth, contributed to the rise of nationalism in
the islands. The belief in a mythical messianic figure named John Frum
was the basis for an indigenous cargo cult (a movement attempting to
obtain industrial goods through magic) promising Melanesian
John Frum is both a religion and a political party
with a member in Parliament. 1966 flag of the colonial
The first political party, established in the early 1970s, was called
New Hebrides National Party. One of the founders was Father Walter
Lini , who later became Prime Minister. Renamed the Vanua\'aku Pati in
1974, the party pushed for independence, which was gained amidst the
Coconut War .
The independent Republic of
Vanuatu was established in 1980.
During the 1990s,
Vanuatu experienced a period of political
instability which resulted in a more decentralised government. The
Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary group, attempted a coup in 1996
because of a pay dispute. There were allegations of corruption in the
Maxime Carlot Korman . New elections have been called
for several times since 1997, most recently in 2004.
Vanuatu with its capital
Port Vila , located on its third
largest island. Cinder plain of
Mount Yasur on Tanna island.
Efate island. Main article:
Geography of Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago consisting of about 82 relatively
small, geologically newer islands of volcanic origin (65 of them
inhabited), with about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) between the most
northern and southern islands. Two of these islands (Matthew and
Hunter ) are also claimed and controlled by
France as part of the
French collectivity of New Caledonia. The country lies between
latitudes 13°S and 21°S and longitudes 166°E and 171°E.
The fourteen of Vanuatu's islands that have surface areas of more
than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) are, from largest to smallest:
Espiritu Santo ,
Ambrym , Tanna ,
Pentecost , Epi ,
Ambae or Aoba,
Vanua Lava ,
Maewo , Malo and
Aneityum or Anatom. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port
Vila , on Efate, and
Luganville on Espiritu Santo. The highest point
Mount Tabwemasana , at 1,879 metres (6,165 ft), on the
island of Espiritu Santo.
Vanuatu's total area is roughly 12,274 square kilometres (4,739 sq
mi), of which its land surface is very limited (roughly 4,700 square
kilometres (1,800 sq mi)). Most of the islands are steep, with
unstable soils and little permanent fresh water. One estimate, made
in 2005, is that only 9% of land is used for agriculture (7% with
permanent crops, plus 2% considered arable). The shoreline is mostly
rocky with fringing reefs and no continental shelf , dropping rapidly
into the ocean depths.
There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, including
Mount Yasur and several underwater volcanoes.
Volcanic activity is
common, with an ever-present danger of a major eruption; a nearby
undersea eruption of 6.4 magnitude occurred in November 2008 with no
casualties, and an eruption occurred in 1945.
Vanuatu is recognised
as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion , known as the
forests . It is part of the
Australasia ecozone , which includes New
Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia,
New Guinea and New Zealand
Vanuatu's population (estimated in 2008 as growing 2.4% annually) is
placing increasing pressure on land and resources for agriculture,
grazing, hunting, and fishing. Some 90% of
Vanuatu households fish and
consume fish, which has caused intense fishing pressure near villages
and the depletion of near-shore fish species. While well-vegetated,
most islands show signs of deforestation. The islands have been
logged, particularly of high-value timber, subjected to wide-scale
slash-and-burn agriculture, and converted to coconut plantations and
cattle ranches, and now show evidence of increased soil erosion and
Many upland watersheds are being deforested and degraded, and fresh
water is becoming increasingly scarce. Proper waste disposal, as well
as water and air pollution, are becoming troublesome issues around
urban areas and large villages. Additionally, the lack of employment
opportunities in industry and inaccessibility to markets have combined
to lock rural families into a subsistence or self-reliance mode,
putting tremendous pressure on local ecosystems.
FLORA AND FAUNA
List of birds of Vanuatu
Despite its tropical forests,
Vanuatu has a limited number of plant
and animal species. It has an indigenous flying fox, _Pteropus
anetianus _. Flying foxes are important rainforest and timber
regenerators. They pollinate and seed disperse a wide variety of
native trees. Their diet is nectar, pollen and fruit and they are
commonly called "fruit bats". They are in decline across their South
Pacific range. However, governments are increasingly aware of the
economic and ecological value of flying foxes and there are calls to
increase their protection. There are no indigenous large mammals. The
nineteen species of native reptiles include the flowerpot snake ,
found only on Efate. The
Fiji banded iguana (_Brachylophus fasciatus_)
was introduced as a feral animal in the 1960s. There are eleven
species of bats (three unique to Vanuatu) and sixty-one species of
land and water birds. While the small
Polynesian rat is thought to be
indigenous, the large species arrived with Europeans, as did
domesticated hogs, dogs, and cattle. The ant species of some of the
Vanuatu were catalogued by
E. O. Wilson .
The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of
marine molluscs and a large diversity of marine fishes . Coneshell and
stonefish carry poison fatal to humans. The Giant East African land
snail arrived only in the 1970s, but already has spread from the
Port-Vila region to Luganville.
There are three or possibly four adult saltwater crocodiles living in
Vanuatu's mangroves and no current breeding population. It is said
the crocodiles reached the northern part of the islands after
cyclones, given the island chain's proximity to the Solomon Islands
New Guinea where crocodiles are very common.
The climate is tropical, with about nine months of warm to hot rainy
weather and the possibility of cyclones and three to four months of
cooler, drier weather characterised by winds from the southeast. The
water temperature ranges from 22 °C (72 °F) in winter to 28 °C (82
°F) in the summer. Cool between April and September, the days become
hotter and more humid starting in October. The daily temperature
ranges from 20–32 °C (68–90 °F). Southeasterly trade winds occur
from May to October.
Vanuatu has a long rainy season, with significant rainfall almost
every month. The wettest and hottest months are December through
April, which also constitute the cyclone season. The driest months are
June through November. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimetres (93
in) per year but can be as high as 4,000 millimetres (160 in) in the
northern islands. In 2015, the
United Nations University gave Vanuatu
the highest natural disaster risk of all the countries it measured.
For more details on this topic, see
Cyclone Pam § Effects in Vanuatu
In March 2015,
Cyclone Pam impacted much of
Vanuatu as a
severe tropical cyclone, causing extensive damage to all the islands
and deaths. As of 17 March 2015 the
United Nations said the official
death toll was 11 (six from
Efate and five from Tanna ), and 30 were
reported injured; these numbers are expected to rise as more remote
islands are reached.
Cyclone Pam is possibly the worst natural disaster in Vanuatu's
Vanuatu lands minister,
Ralph Regenvanu said, "This is the
worst disaster to affect
Vanuatu ever as far as we know."
List of earthquakes in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has relatively frequent earthquakes. Of the 58 M7 or greater
events that occurred between 1909 and 2001, few were studied.
Politics of Vanuatu Vanuatu's parliament
The Republic of
Vanuatu is a parliamentary democracy with a written
constitution , which declares that the "head of the Republic shall be
known as the President and shall symbolise the unity of the nation."
The powers of the
President of Vanuatu , who is elected for a
five-year term by a two-thirds majority of an electoral college, are
primarily ceremonial. The electoral college consists of members of
Parliament and the presidents of Regional Councils. The President may
be removed by the electoral college for gross misconduct or
The Prime Minister , who is the head of government , is elected by a
majority vote of a three-quarters quorum of the Parliament. The Prime
Minister, in turn, appoints the Council of Ministers, whose number may
not exceed a quarter of the number of parliamentary representatives.
The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers constitute the
Parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral and has 52 members, who are
elected by popular vote every four years unless earlier dissolved by a
majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the
President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The national Council of
Chiefs, called the _
Malvatu Mauri _ and elected by district councils
of chiefs, advises the government on all matters concerning ni-Vanuatu
culture and language.
Besides national authorities and figures,
Vanuatu also has
high-placed people at the village level. Chiefs continue to be the
leading figures at the village level. It has been reported that even
politicians need to oblige them. One becomes such a figure by holding
a number of lavish feasts (each feast allowing them a higher
ceremonial grade) or alternatively through inheritance (the latter
only in Polynesian-influenced villages). In northern Vanuatu, feasts
are graded through the nimangki-system.
Government and society in
Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic
French and English lines. Forming coalition governments , however, has
proved problematic at times due to differences between English and
French speakers. Francophone politicians like those of the Union of
Moderate Parties tend to be conservative and support neo-liberal
policies, as well as closer relations with
France and the West. The
anglophone Vanua\'aku Pati identifies as socialist and anti-colonial.
The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and up to three other
judges. Two or more members of this court may constitute a Court of
Appeal. Magistrate courts handle most routine legal matters. The legal
system is based on British common law and
French civil law . The
constitution also provides for the establishment of village or island
courts presided over by chiefs to deal with questions of customary law
Foreign relations of Vanuatu
Vanuatu has joined the
Asian Development Bank , the
World Bank , the
International Monetary Fund , the _Agence de Coopération Culturelle
et Technique _, _la
Francophonie _ and the
Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations .
Since 1980, Australia, the United Kingdom,
France and New Zealand
have provided the bulk of Vanuatu's development aid. Direct aid from
the UK to
Vanuatu ceased in 2005 following the decision by the UK to
no longer focus on the Pacific. However, more recently new donors such
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the People's Republic of
China have been providing increased amounts of aid funding. In 2005
the MCA announced that
Vanuatu was one of the first 15 countries in
the world selected to receive support—an amount of US$65 million was
given for the provision and upgrading of key pieces of public
Vanuatu retains strong economic and cultural ties to Australia, the
European Union (in particular
France and UK) and New Zealand.
Australia now provides the bulk of external assistance, including the
police force, which has a paramilitary wing.
There is no
Vanuatu High Commission or other
office in Britain, but the British Friends of Vanuatu, based in
London, provides support for
Vanuatu visitors to the UK, and can often
offer advice and contacts to persons seeking information about Vanuatu
or wishing to visit, and welcomes new members (not necessarily
resident in the UK) interested in Vanuatu. The association's
Charitable Trust funds small scale assistance in the education and
Vanuatu is not a member of
Interpol , along with 11 other countries
mainly in Oceania.
Law enforcement in Vanuatu
There are two police wings: the
Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) and the
paramilitary wing, the
Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF). Altogether there
were 547 police officers organised into two main police commands: one
Port Vila and one in Luganville. In addition to the two command
stations there were four secondary police stations and eight police
posts. This means that there are many islands with no police presence,
and many parts of islands where getting to a police post can take
several days. There is no purely military expenditure.
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Provinces of Vanuatu
Provinces of Vanuatu
Vanuatu has been divided into six provinces since 1994. The names in
English of all provinces are derived from the initial letters of their
* Malampa (MALakula, AMbrym, PAama)
* Penama (PENtecost, AMbae, MAewo – in French: Pénama)
* Sanma (SANto, MAlo)
* Shefa (SHEpherds group, EFAte – in French: Shéfa)
* Tafea (Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango,
Aneityum – in French:
* Torba (TORres Islands, BAnks Islands)
Provinces are autonomous units with their own popularly elected local
parliaments known officially as provincial councils. They collect
local taxes and make by-laws in local matters like tourism, the
provincial budget or the provision of some basic services. They are
headed by a chairman elected from among the members of the local
parliaments and assisted by a secretary appointed by the Public
Service Commission .
Their executive arm consists of a provincial government headed by an
executive officer who is appointed by the Prime Minister with the
advice of the minister of local government. The provincial government
is usually formed by the party that has the majority in the provincial
council and, like the national government, is advised in Ni-Vanuatu
culture and language by the local council of chiefs. The provincial
president is constitutionally a member of the electoral college that
elects the President of Vanuatu.
The provinces are in turn divided into municipalities (usually
consisting of an individual island) headed by a council and a mayor
elected from among the members of the council.
Economy of Vanuatu A proportional representation
of Vanuatu's exports A market hall in
The four mainstays of the economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore
financial services , and raising cattle . There is substantial fishing
activity, although this industry does not bring in much foreign
exchange. Exports include copra , kava , beef, cocoa and timber, and
imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs and fuels. In
contrast, mining activity is unsubstantial.
Although manganese mining halted in 1978, there was an agreement in
2006 to export manganese already mined but not yet exported. The
country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light-industry sector
caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import
duties and a 12.5% VAT on goods and services. Economic development is
hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports,
vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances between
constituent islands and from main markets.
Agriculture is used for consumption as well as for export. It
provides a living for 65% of the population. In particular, production
of copra and kava create substantial revenue. Many farmers have been
abandoning cultivation of food crops, and use earnings from kava
cultivation to buy food.
Kava has also been used in ceremonial
exchanges between clans and villages. Cocoa is also grown for foreign
In 2007, the number of households engaged in fishing was 15,758,
mainly for consumption (99%), and the average number of weekly fishing
trips was 3. The tropical climate enables growing of a wide range of
fruits and vegetables and spices, including banana, garlic, cabbage,
peanuts, pineapples, sugarcane, taro, yams, watermelons, leaf spices,
carrots, radishes, eggplants, vanilla (both green and cured), pepper,
cucumber and many others. In 2007, the value (in terms of millions of
vatu – the official currency of Vanuatu), for agricultural products,
was estimated for different products: kava (341 million vatu), copra
(195), cattle (135), crop gardens (93), cocoa (59), forestry (56),
fishing (24) and coffee (12).
Tourism brings in much-needed foreign exchange.
Vanuatu is widely
recognised as one of the premier vacation destinations for scuba
divers wishing to explore coral reefs of the South
Pacific region. A
further significant attraction to scuba divers is the wreck of the US
ocean liner and converted troop carrier _
SS President Coolidge _ on
Espiritu Santo island. Sunk during World War II, it is one of the
largest shipwrecks in the world that is accessible for recreational
diving. Tourism increased 17% from 2007 to 2008 to reach 196,134
arrivals, according to one estimate. The 2008 total is a sharp
increase from 2000, in which there were only 57,000 visitors (of
these, 37,000 were from Australia, 8,000 from New Zealand, 6,000 from
New Caledonia, 3,000 from Europe, 1,000 from North America, 1,000 from
Japan. (Note: figures rounded to the nearest thousand)). Tourism has
been promoted, in part, by
Vanuatu being the site of several
reality-TV shows. The ninth season of the reality TV series _Survivor
_ was filmed on Vanuatu, entitled _Survivor:
Vanuatu —Islands of
Fire_. Two years later, Australia's _Celebrity
Survivor _ was filmed
at the same location used by the US version. In mid-2002, the
government stepped up efforts to boost tourism.
Financial services are an important part of the economy.
Vanuatu is a
tax haven that until 2008 did not release account information to other
governments or law-enforcement agencies. International pressure,
mainly from Australia, influenced the
Vanuatu government to begin
adhering to international norms to improve transparency. In Vanuatu,
there is no income tax , withholding tax , capital gains tax ,
inheritance tax , or exchange control. Many international
ship-management companies choose to flag their ships under the Vanuatu
flag, because of the tax benefits and favourable labour laws (Vanuatu
is a full member of the
International Maritime Organization and
applies its international conventions).
Vanuatu is recognised as a
"flag of convenience " country. Several file-sharing groups, such as
the providers of the
KaZaA network of
Sharman Networks and the
WinMX , have chosen to incorporate in
Vanuatu to avoid
regulation and legal challenges. In response to foreign concerns the
government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore
financial centre .
Vanuatu receives foreign aid mainly from Australia
and New Zealand.
Vanuatu became the 185th member of the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) in December 2011.
Commercial agriculture ,
Raising cattle leads to beef production for export. One estimate in
2007 for the total value of cattle heads sold was 135 million vatu;
cattle were first introduced into the area from
Australia by British
planter James Paddon. On average, each household has 5 pigs and 16
chickens, and while cattle are the "most important livestock", pigs
and chickens are important for subsistence agriculture as well as
playing a significant role in ceremonies and customs (especially
pigs). There are 30 commercial farms (sole proprietorships (37%),
partnerships (23%), corporations (17%)), with revenues of 533 million
vatu and expenses of 329 million vatu in 2007.
Earthquakes can negatively affect economic activity on the island
nation. A severe earthquake in November 1999, followed by a tsunami ,
caused extensive damage to the northern island of Pentecost , leaving
thousands homeless. Another powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused
extensive damage in the capital, Port Vila, and surrounding areas, and
was also followed by a tsunami. Another earthquake of 7.2 struck on 2
Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) released their 2007
agricultural census in 2008. According to the study, agricultural
exports make up about three-quarters (73%) of all exports; 80% of the
population lives in rural areas where "agriculture is the main source
of their livelihood"; and of these households, almost all (99%)
engaged in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Total annual
household income was 1,803 million vatu . Of this income, agriculture
grown for their own household use was valued at 683 million vatu,
agriculture for sale at 561, gifts received at 38, handicrafts at 33
and fisheries (for sale) at 18.
The largest expenditure by households was food (300 million vatu),
followed by household appliances and other necessities (79 million
vatu), transportation (59), education and services (56), housing (50),
alcohol and tobacco (39), clothing and footwear (17). Exports were
valued at 3,038 million vatu, and included copra (485), kava (442),
cocoa (221), beef (fresh and chilled) (180), timber (80) and fish
(live fish, aquarium, shell, button) (28). Total imports of 20,472
million vatu included industrial materials (4,261), food and drink
(3,984), machinery (3,087), consumer goods (2,767), transport
equipment (2,125), fuels and lubricants (187) and other imports
(4,060). There are substantial numbers of crop gardens – 97,888 in
2007 – many on flat land (62%), slightly hilly slope (31%), and even
on steep slopes (7%); there were 33,570 households with at least one
crop garden, and of these, 10,788 households sold some of these crops
over a twelve-month period.
The economy grew about 6% in the early 2000s. This is higher than in
the 1990s, when GDP rose less than 3%, on average.
One report from the
Asian Development Bank about
Vanuatu's economy gave mixed reviews. It noted the economy was
"expanding", noting that the economy grew at an impressive 5.9% rate
from 2003 to 2007, and lauded "positive signals regarding reform
initiatives from the government in some areas" but described certain
binding constraints such as "poor infrastructure services". Since a
private monopoly generates power, "electricity costs are among the
highest in the Pacific" among developing countries. The report also
cited "weak governance and intrusive interventions by the State" which
Vanuatu was ranked the 173rd safest investment destination in the
world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings. In 2015,
Vanuatu was ranked the 84th most economically free country by The
Heritage Foundation and _The Wall Street Journal_.
Telecommunications in Vanuatu
Mobile phone service in the islands is provided by TVL and
Internet access is provided by TVL, Telsat Broadband,
Wantok using a variety of connection technologies. A newly installed
submarine optical fibre cable now connects
Vanuatu to Fiji.
Demographics of Vanuatu A child from Vanuatu.
Vanuatu's population in thousands (1961–2003). Men wearing
traditional nambas .
Vanuatu has a population of 243,304. Males outnumber females; in
1999, according to the
Vanuatu Statistics Office, there were 95,682
males and 90,996 females. The population is predominantly rural, but
Port Vila and
Luganville have populations in the tens of thousands.
The inhabitants of
Vanuatu are called _
Ni-Vanuatu _ in English, using
a recent coinage . The
Ni-Vanuatu are primarily (98.5%) of Melanesian
descent, with the remainder made up of a mix of Europeans, Asians and
Pacific islanders. Three islands were historically colonised by
Polynesians . About 20,000
Ni-Vanuatu live and work in
New Zealand and
Australia. In 2006 the
New Economics Foundation and Friends of the
Earth environmentalist group published the
Happy Planet Index , which
analysed data on levels of reported happiness , life expectancy and
Ecological Footprint , and they estimated
Vanuatu to be the most
ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high
Languages of Vanuatu
The national language of the Republic of
Bislama . The
official languages are
Bislama , French and English. The principal
languages of education are French and English. The use of English or
French as the formal language is split along political lines.
Bislama is a pidgin language, and now a creole in urban areas.
Essentially combining a typically Melanesian grammar with a mostly
Bislama is the only language that can be
understood and spoken by the majority of the population, as a second
In addition, 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in
Vanuatu. The density of languages, per capita, is the highest of any
nation in the world, with an average of only 2,000 speakers per
language. All vernacular languages of
Vanuatu (i.e., excluding
Bislama) belong to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian family.
In recent years, the use of
Bislama as a first language has
considerably encroached on indigenous languages, whose use in the
population has receded from 73.1 to 63.2 percent between 1999 and
Religion in Vanuatu
Christianity is the predominant religion in
Vanuatu , consisting of
several denominations. The
Presbyterian Church in
Vanuatu , adhered to
by about one-third of the population, is the largest of them. Roman
Anglican are other common denominations, each claiming
about 15% of the population. The less significant groups are the
Seventh-day Adventist Church , the Church of Christ , Neil Thomas
Ministries (NTM), Jehovah\'s Witnesses , and others. In 2007, Islam in
Vanuatu was estimated to consist of about 200 converts.
Because of the modern goods that the military in the Second World War
brought with them when they came to the islands, several cargo cults
developed. Many died out, but the
John Frum cult on Tanna is still
large, and has adherents in the parliament. Also on Tanna is the
Prince Philip Movement , which reveres the United Kingdom's Prince
Philip . Villagers of the
Yaohnanen tribe believed in an ancient
story about the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit venturing across
the seas to look for a powerful woman to marry. Prince Philip, having
visited the island with his new wife Queen Elizabeth , fitted the
description exactly and is therefore revered as a god around the isle
Vanuatu has a tropical climate and over 80% of the population lives
in rural, isolated villages with access to their own gardens and food
The geographically-isolated communities have minimal access to basic
health and education services. Churches and non-government
organisations provide a minimal level of support to many rural
Vanuatu government health and education services are hard
pressed to deal with the rapid increase of urban and peri-urban
populations in informal and squatter settlements around
Port Vila and
to a lesser extent in Luganville. Health services in
Port Vila and
Luganville provide reasonable health care, often supported and
enhanced by visiting doctors.
Official statistics show infant mortality declined during the last
half of the twentieth century, from 123 deaths per 1,000 population in
1967 to 25 per 1,000 in 1999. There were 46.85 infant deaths per
1,000 live births in 2011.
Education is not compulsory, and school enrolments and attendance are
among the lowest in the Pacific. The estimated literacy rate of people
aged 15–24 years is about 74% according to
UNESCO figures. The rate
of primary school enrolment rose from 74.5% in 1989 to 78.2% in 1999
and then to 93.0% in 2004 but then fell to 85.4% in 2007. The
proportion of pupils completing a primary education fell from 90% in
1991 to 72% in 2004 and up to 78% in 2012.
Port Vila and three other centres have campuses of the University of
Pacific , an educational institution co-owned by twelve
Pacific countries. The campus in Port Vila, known as the Emalus
Campus, houses the University's law school.
Culture of Vanuatu Wooden slit drums from
Bernice P. Bishop Museum
Vanuatu culture retains a strong diversity through local regional
variations and through foreign influence.
Vanuatu may be divided into
three major cultural regions. In the north, wealth is established by
how much one can give away, through a grade-taking system. Pigs,
particularly those with rounded tusks , are considered a symbol of
wealth throughout Vanuatu. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian
cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of
title with associated privileges has developed.
Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to
initiate them into manhood, usually including circumcision .
Most villages have a _nakamal _ or village clubhouse which serves as
a meeting point for men and as a place to drink _kava _. Villages also
have male- and female-only sections. These sections are situated all
over the villages; in _nakamals_, special spaces are provided for
females when they are in their menstruation period.
There are few prominent ni-
Vanuatu authors. Women\'s rights activist
Grace Mera Molisa , who died in 2002, achieved international
notability as a descriptive poet.
Music of Vanuatu A women's dance from Vanuatu,
using bamboo stamping tubes
The traditional music of
Vanuatu is still thriving in the rural areas
of Vanuatu. Musical instruments consist mostly of idiophones : drums
of various shape and size, slit gongs , stamping tubes , as well as
rattles , among others. Another musical genre that has become widely
popular during the 20th century in all areas of Vanuatu, is known as
_string band _ music. It combines guitars, ukulele , and popular
More recently the music of Vanuatu, as an industry, grew rapidly in
the 1990s and several bands have forged a distinctive ni-Vanuatu
identity. Popular genres of modern commercial music, which are
currently being played in the urban areas include zouk music and
reggaeton . Reggaeton, a variation of rap/hip-hop spoken in the
Spanish language, played alongside its own distinctive beat, is
especially played in the local nightclubs of
Port Vila with, mostly,
an audience of Westerners and tourists.
Cuisine of Vanuatu
The cuisine of
Vanuatu (_aelan kakae_) incorporates fish, root
vegetables such as taro and yams , fruits, and vegetables. Most island
families grow food in their gardens, and food shortages are rare.
Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains , and sweet potatoes are
abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and coconut cream are
used to flavour many dishes. Most food is cooked using hot stones or
through boiling and steaming; very little food is fried.
The national dish of
Vanuatu is the lap lap .
Sport in Vanuatu
Outline of Vanuatu
Index of Vanuatu-related articles
Visa policy of Vanuatu
* Geography portal
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