Photos of Vanuatu

Introduction

Background

Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted. Politics and society continue to be divided along linguistic lines, although those divisions are lessening over time. Coalition governments tend to be weak, and since 2008, prime ministers have been ousted through no-confidence motions or temporary procedural issues 10 times. Prime Minister Charlot SALAWI has survived at least five no-confidence motions since taking office in 2016.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia

Geographic coordinates

16 00 S, 167 00 E

Area

total: 12,189 sq km

land: 12,189 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes more than 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited

country comparison to the world: 162

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

2,528 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

measured from claimed archipelagic baselines

Climate

tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds from May to October; moderate rainfall from November to April; may be affected by cyclones from December to April

Terrain

mostly mountainous islands of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains

Elevation

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Tabwemasana 1,877 m

Natural resources

manganese, hardwood forests, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 1.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 36.1% (2018 est.)

other: 48.6% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

10 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

three-quarters of the population lives in rural areas; the urban populace lives primarily in two cities, Port-Vila and Lugenville; three largest islands - Espiritu Santo, Malakula, and Efate - accomodate over half of the populace

Natural hazards

tropical cyclones (January to April); volcanic eruption on Aoba (Ambae) island began on 27 November 2005, volcanism also causes minor earthquakes; tsunamis

volcanism: significant volcanic activity with multiple eruptions in recent years; Yasur (361 m), one of the world's most active volcanoes, has experienced continuous activity in recent centuries; other historically active volcanoes include Aoba, Ambrym, Epi, Gaua, Kuwae, Lopevi, Suretamatai, and Traitor's Head

Environment - international agreements

party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes and there are several underwater volcanoes as well

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Ni-Vanuatu (singular and plural)

adjective: Ni-Vanuatu

Ethnic groups

Melanesian 99.2%, non-Melanesian 0.8% (2016 est.)

Languages

local languages (more than 100) 63.2%, Bislama (official; creole) 33.7%, English (official) 2%, French (official) 0.6%, other 0.5% (2009 est.)

Religions

Protestant 70% (includes Presbyterian 27.9%, Anglican 15.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 12.5%, Assemblies of God 4.7%, Church of Christ 4.5%, Neil Thomas Ministry 3.1%, and Apostolic 2.2%), Roman Catholic 12.4%, customary beliefs 3.7% (including Jon Frum cargo cult), other 12.6%, none 1.1%, unspecified 0.2% (2009 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 33.65% (male 51,267/female 49,111)

15-24 years: 19.99% (male 29,594/female 30,050)

25-54 years: 36.09% (male 52,529/female 55,130)

55-64 years: 5.89% (male 8,666/female 8,904)

65 years and over: 4.39% (male 6,518/female 6,564) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 72.5

youth dependency ratio: 66.2

elderly dependency ratio: 12.3

potential support ratio: 8.1 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 23 years

male: 22.6 years

female: 23.5 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Birth rate

21.95 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 64

Death rate

3.97 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 215

Net migration rate

-1.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 150

Population distribution

three-quarters of the population lives in rural areas; the urban populace lives primarily in two cities, Port-Vila and Lugenville; three largest islands - Espiritu Santo, Malakula, and Efate - accomodate over half of the populace

Urbanization

urban population: 25.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.55% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

53,000 PORT-VILA (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.99 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

72 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

Infant mortality rate

total: 14.69 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 16.14 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 13.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 106

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.87 years

male: 73.18 years

female: 76.66 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 89.7% of population

total: 92.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 10.3% of population

total: 7.7% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.17 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 91.6% of population

rural: 60.9% of population

total: 68.6% of population

unimproved: urban: 8.4% of population

rural: 39.1% of population

total: 31.4% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 87.5%

male: 88.3%

female: 86.7% (2018)

Environment

Environment - current issues

population growth; water pollution, most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water; inadequate sanitation; deforestation

Environment - international agreements

party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 10.31 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.15 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.5 megatons (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

10 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds from May to October; moderate rainfall from November to April; may be affected by cyclones from December to April

Land use

agricultural land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 1.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 36.1% (2018 est.)

other: 48.6% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 185

Urbanization

urban population: 25.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.55% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 70,225 tons (2012 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 25,983 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 37% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu

conventional short form: Vanuatu

local long form: Ripablik blong Vanuatu

local short form: Vanuatu

former: New Hebrides

etymology: derived from the words "vanua" (home or land) and "tu" (stand) that occur in several of the Austonesian languages spoken on the islands and which provide a meaning of "the land remains" but which also convey a sense of "independence" or "our land"

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Port-Vila (on Efate)

geographic coordinates: 17 44 S, 168 19 E

time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: there are two possibilities for the origin of the name: early European settlers were Portuguese and "vila" means "village or town" in Portuguese, hence "Port-Vila" would mean "Port Town"; alternatively, the site of the capital is referred to as "Efil" or "Ifira" in native languages, "Vila" is a likely corruption of these names

Administrative divisions

6 provinces; Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea, Torba

Independence

30 July 1980 (from France and the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 30 July (1980)

Constitution

history: draft completed August 1979, finalized by constitution conference 19 September 1979, ratified by French and British Governments 23 October 1979, effective 30 July 1980 at independence

amendments: proposed by the prime minister or by the Parliament membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by Parliament in special session with at least three fourths of the membership; passage of amendments affecting the national and official languages, or the electoral and parliamentary system also requires approval in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2013

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, French law, and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: both parents must be citizens of Vanuatu; in the case of only one parent, it must be the father who is a citizen

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Tallis Obed MOSES (since 6 July 2017)

head of government: Prime Minister Bob LOUGHMAN (since 20 April 2020)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to Parliament

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and presidents of the 6 provinces; Vanuatu president serves a 5-year term; election last held on 17 June 2017 (next to be held in 2022); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually elected prime minister by Parliament from among its members; election for prime minister last held on 20 April 2020 (next to be held following general elections in 2024)

election results: Bob LOUGHMAN elected prime minister on 20 April 2020; Bob LOUGHMAN 31 votes, Ralph REGENVANU 21 votes

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members directly elected in 8 single-seat and 9 multi-seat constituencies by single non-transferable vote to serve 4-year terms (candidates in multi-seat constituencies can be elected with only 4% of the vote)

elections: last held on 19–20 March 2020 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GJP 9, RMC 7, VP 7, LPV 5, UMP 5, NUP 4, other 15; composition - men 52, women 0; percent of women 0%; note - political party associations are fluid

note: the National Council of Chiefs advises on matters of culture and language

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal (consists of 2 or more judges of the Supreme Court designated by the chief justice); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and 6 puisne judges - 3 local and 3 expatriate)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; other judges appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, a 4-member advisory body; judges serve until the age of retirement

subordinate courts: Magistrates Courts; Island Courts

Political parties and leaders

Greens Confederation or GC [Moana CARCASSES Kalosil]
Iauko Group or IG [Tony NARI]
Land and Justice Party (Graon mo Jastis Pati) or GJP [Ralph REGENVANU]
Melanesian Progressive Party or MPP [Barak SOPE]
Nagriamel movement or NAG [Frankie STEVENS]
Natatok Indigenous People's Democratic Party or (NATATOK) or NIPDP [Alfred Roland CARLOT]
National United Party or NUP [Ham LINI]
People's Progressive Party or PPP [Sato KILMAN]
People's Service Party or PSP [Don KEN]
Reunification of Movement for Change or RMC [Charlot SALWAI]
Rural Development Party or RDP [Jay NGWELE, spokesman]
Union of Moderate Parties or UMP [Serge VOHOR]
Vanua'aku Pati (Our Land Party) or VP [Edward NATAPEI]
Vanuatu Democratic Party [Maxime Carlot KORMAN]
Vanuatu First or Vanuatu [Russel NARI]
Vanuatu Liberal Movement or VLM [Gaetan PIKIOUNE]
Vanuatu Liberal Democratic Party or VLDP [Tapangararua WILLIE]
Vanuatu National Party or VNP [Issac HAMARILIU]
Vanuatu National Development Party or VNDP [Robert Bohn SIKOL]
Vanuatu Republican Party or VRP [Marcellino PIPITE]

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, IOC, IOM, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NAM, OAS (observer), OIF, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: none; the Vanuatu Permanent Mission to the UN serves as the embassy; it is headed by Odo TEVI (since 8 September 2017); address: 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400B, New York, NY 10017; telephone: [1] (212) 661-4303; FAX: [1] (212) 422-2437

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Vanuatu; the US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to Vanuatu

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a black isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) all separated by a black-edged yellow stripe in the shape of a horizontal Y (the two points of the Y face the hoist side and enclose the triangle); centered in the triangle is a boar's tusk encircling two crossed namele fern fronds, all in yellow; red represents the blood of boars and men, as well as unity, green the richness of the islands, and black the ni-Vanuatu people; the yellow Y-shape - which reflects the pattern of the islands in the Pacific Ocean - symbolizes the light of the Gospel spreading through the islands; the boar's tusk is a symbol of prosperity frequently worn as a pendant on the islands; the fern fronds represent peace

note: one of several flags where a prominent component of the design reflects the shape of the country; other such flags are those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, and Eritrea

National symbol(s)

boar's tusk with crossed fern fronds; national colors: red, black, green, yellow

National anthem

name: "Yumi, Yumi, Yumi" (We, We, We)

lyrics/music: Francois Vincent AYSSAV

note: adopted 1980; the anthem is written in Bislama, a Creole language that mixes Pidgin English and French

Economy

Economic overview

This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for about two thirds of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with more than 330,000 visitors in 2017, are other mainstays of the economy. Tourism has struggled after Efate, the most populous and most popular island for tourists, was damaged by Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. Ongoing infrastructure difficulties at Port Vila’s Bauerfield Airport have caused air travel disruptions, further hampering tourism numbers. Australia and New Zealand are the main source of tourists and foreign aid. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits.

Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center.

Since 2002, the government has stepped up efforts to boost tourism through improved air connections, resort development, and cruise ship facilities. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth.

Real GDP growth rate

4.2% (2017 est.)

3.5% (2016 est.)

0.2% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$945 million (2019 est.)

$915 million (2018 est.)

$889 million (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 208

GDP (official exchange rate)

$870 million (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$3,153 (2019 est.)

$3,128 (2018 est.)

$3,117 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 196

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 27.3% (2017 est.)

industry: 11.8% (2017 est.)

services: 60.8% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 59.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 17.4% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 28.7% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 42.5% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -48.5% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 61.1 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 81.5 (2020)

Trading score: 59.1 (2020)

Enforcement score: 49.3 (2020)

Agricultural products

coconuts, roots/tubers nes, bananas, vegetables, pork, fruit, milk, beef, groundnuts, cocoa

Industries

food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 65%

industry: 5%

services: 30% (2000 est.)

Budget

revenues: 236.7 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 244.1 million (2017 est.)

Public debt

48.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

46.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 107

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$13 million (2017 est.)

-$37 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

Exports

$44.7 million (2017 est.)

$53.5 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 205

Exports - partners

Japan 33%, Thailand 13%, Mauritania 13%, South Korea 11%, China 9%, Fiji 7% (2019)

Exports - commodities

fish and fish products, tug boats, perfume plants, mollusks, cocoa beans (2019)

Imports

$273.7 million (2017 est.)

$308.5 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 208

Imports - partners

China 29%, Australia 18%, New Zealand 11%, Fiji 11%, Taiwan 5%, Thailand 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, fishing ships, delivery trucks, poultry meats, broadcasting equipment (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$395.1 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$267.4 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 160

Debt - external

$200.5 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$182.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 188

Exchange rates

vatu (VUV) per US dollar -

111.015 (2020 est.)

117.035 (2019 est.)

113.005 (2018 est.)

108.99 (2014 est.)

97.07 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 61.8% (2018)

electrification - urban areas: 93.7% (2018)

electrification - rural areas: 51.1% (2018)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 3,724

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1.27 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 209

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 259,317

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 88.44 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telecom services have progressed significantly in recent years; mobile phones are now the primary means of communication and more than 92% of the population is covered by a mobile network; 2016 saw the launch of LTE services and the introduction of rural satellite broadband services; mobile phone use in some rural areas is constrained by electricity shortages; investment in fixed broadband saw recent growth with fiber-optic cables; mobile broadband infrastructure also expanded with a reduction in prices; general broadband penetration is at 45%; Kacific-1 broadband satellite launch in 2019 will change telecommunications for the region (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 1 per 100 and mobile-cellular 88 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 678; landing points for the ICN1 & ICN2 submarine cables providing connectivity to the Solomon Islands and Fiji; cables helped end-users with Internet bandwidth; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2020)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

1 state-owned TV station; multi-channel pay TV is available; state-owned Radio Vanuatu operates 2 radio stations; 2 privately owned radio broadcasters; programming from multiple international broadcasters is available

Internet users

total: 74,083

percent of population: 25.72% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 184

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,718

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 8

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 374,603 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1.66 million mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 3 (2019)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 28 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2013)

under 914 m: 21 (2013)

Roadways

total: 1,070 km (2000)

paved: 256 km (2000)

unpaved: 814 km (2000)

country comparison to the world: 183

Merchant marine

total: 345

by type: bulk carrier 23, container ship 1, general cargo 43, other 278 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 51

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Forari Bay, Luganville (Santo, Espiritu Santo), Port-Vila

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF; includes Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) and Police Maritime Wing (VPMW)) (2021)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by Vanuatu and France