What’s Vanuatu like?

The Y-shaped chain of islands covers more than 500,000 square miles, but only about 7,000 square miles of it are land! It has varied landscape, from rugged mountains to dense jungle to sandy beaches with vast coral reefs. The islands are, in fact, summits of mountain ranges rising from the deep ocean floor. Because of its position over shifting tectonic plates in the earth’s crust, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common.

Most of the islands are inhabited, but the outlying areas are often isolated by the terrain and lack of telephone communication, transportation and educational opportunities. The economy is predominantly subsistence agriculture, but there are developing industries in coconut oil, fishing, cattle, and tourism.

Formerly the New Hebrides, the islands were ruled by an Anglo-French condominium government that was created in 1906. During WWII, 500,000 Allied troops were stationed throughout the islands in the war against Japan, and the American presence left a positive impression. Independence was gained in 1980, after some years of struggle, and the nation became Vanuatu. It continues the hard work of development amidst seasons of instability.

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