Flag of Vanuatu

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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.


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


total: 12,200 sq km
land: 12,200 sq km
note: includes more than 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited
water: 0 sq km


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


mostly mountainous islands of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tabwemasana 1,877 m

Natural resources:

manganese, hardwood forests, fish

Land use:

arable land: 2.46%
permanent crops: 7.38%
other: 90.16% (2001)

Natural hazards:

tropical cyclones or typhoons (January to April); volcanism causes minor earthquakes; tsunamis

Environment - current issues:

a majority of the population does not have access to a potable and reliable supply of water; deforestation

Geography - note:

a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes


202,609 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

indigenous Melanesian 98%, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, other Pacific Islanders


Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including Jon Frum Cargo cult)


three official languages: English, French, pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama), plus more than 100 local languages

Government type:

parliamentary republic


Port-Vila (Efate)

Administrative divisions:

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


30 July 1980 (from France and UK)

Legal system:

unified system being created from former dual French and British systems

Economy - overview:

This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with about 50,000 visitors in 1997, are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. 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. A severe earthquake in November 1999 followed by a tsunami, caused extensive damage to the northern island of Pentecote and left thousands homeless. Another powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused extensive damage in the capital, Port-Vila, and surrounding areas, and also was followed by a tsunami. GDP growth rose less than 3% on average in the 1990s. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. In mid-2002 the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth. Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of tourists and foreign aid. Growth expanded moderately in 2003.

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 65%, industry 5%, services 30% (2000 est.)


revenues: $94.4 million
expenditures: $99.8 million, including capital expenditures of $30.4 million (1996 est.)

Agriculture - products:

copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, coconuts, fruits, vegetables; fish, beef


food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning

Exports - commodities:

copra, beef, cocoa, timber, kava, coffee

Exports - partners:

India 30.8%, Thailand 23.4%, Indonesia 9.3%, South Korea 9.3%, Japan 7.5% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, fuels

Imports - partners:

Australia 20.5%, Japan 14.3%, Singapore 9.9%, New Zealand 8.1%, Fiji 6.8%, India 5%, New Caledonia 5% (2003 est.)


vatu (VUV)

Telephones - main lines in use:

6,500 (2003)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

7,800 (2003)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code - 678; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)


total: 1,070 km
paved: 256 km
unpaved: 814 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:

Forari, Port-Vila, Santo (Espiritu Santo)

Merchant marine:

total: 51 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,192,474 GRT/1,560,828 DWT
registered in other countries: 1 (2003 est.)
foreign-owned: Australia 2, Canada 1, Estonia 1, Germany 1, Japan 25, Monaco 4, New Zealand 2, Panama 1, Poland 7, Switzerland 3, United Kingdom 5, United States 2
by type: bulk 28, cargo 2, combination bulk 3, container 2, liquefied gas 2, multi-functional large load carrier 1, refrigerated cargo 6, roll on/roll off 2, vehicle carrier 5


30 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1524 to 2437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 27
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 17 (2003 est.)

Disputes - international:

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