Girls and women from nearby villages flock to mobile health clinics set up by the Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA). The response team from VFHA consists mostly of women, who have already been away from their families for over six weeks. Team Leader, Enneth Ilaisa, mentally prepares her team for the long day ahead.

The 12-member team, have been conducting community outreach on Tanna Island, Vanuatu since 28 March 2023,as part of their humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.

“Our team consists of 9 mothers who have left their families to provide these essential services to vulnerable communities. When people visit us, we put on a happy face to make them feel welcome but at times it gets hard,” said Ilaisa.

Sexual and reproductive health nurse, Cindy Mahi, said she sometimes feels bad for leaving her partner alone to look after the children. When she sees clients with their children, she says she feels homesick.

“I call my family every morning, and sometimes my husband complains about me being away – and it really hurts, I feel so guilty sometimes as a mother,” said Mahi.

“Our work is such that we leave our accommodation before sunrise and return after sunset. People are very tired and sometimes we are so busy that we often work through lunch,” said Ilaisa.

“I offer counselling to them, and I encourage them to share the important work that they do in the field with their husbands, so they know exactly what they do. I sit there and listen to them and sometimes we cry together.

“I tell them, if you feel you need to take a break in the middle of work – do it! When we debrief after our field work, we share the numbers of women who received SRH services, and the feeling of accomplishment is what makes our work worthwhile, it reminds us of our purpose and why we are here, and for a second, our family problems fade away because we know we are serving a purpose greater than ourselves.”