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.


Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia. Area: 12,189 sq km, includes more than 80 islands, about 65 of which are inhabited

Coastline: 2,528 km

Maritime claims: territorial sea 12 nm, contiguous zone: 24 nm

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: highest point Tabwemasana 1,877 m

Natural resources: manganese, hardwood forests, fish

Land use: agricultural land 15.3%, arable land 1.6%; permanent crops 10.3%; permanent pasture 3.4%; forest 36.1%

Natural hazards: tropical cyclones or typhoons (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 (elev. 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 – current issues: most of the population does not have access to a reliable supply of potable water; deforestation. International agreements: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94

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: Ni-Vanuatu

Ethnic groups: Ni-Vanuatu 97.6%, part Ni-Vanuatu 1.1%, other 1.3% (2009 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.)

Population: 272,264 (July 2015 est.)

Urbanization: urban population 26.1% of total (2015), rate of urbanization 3.42% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.).

Major urban areas – population PORT-VILA (capital) 53,000 (2014)

Physicians density 0.12 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density: 1.8 beds/1,000 population (2008)

Drinking water source – improved total 94.5% of population, unimproved total: 5.5% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access – improved total: 57.9% of population, unimproved total 42.1% of population (2015 est.)


Country name: Republic of Vanuatu

Government type: parliamentary republic

Capital: Port-Vila (on Efate)

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

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: effective 30 July 1980; amended several times, last in 2013 (2015)

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

Executive branch: chief of state President Baldwin LONSDALE (since 22 September 2014); head of government: Prime Minister Charlot SALWAI (since 11 February 2016); Cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to parliament

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); note: the National Council of Chiefs advises on matters of culture and language

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (consists of a chief justice and 3 judges); other judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, a 4-member advisory body; judges appointed until 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], 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 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

National anthem: “Yumi, Yumi, Yumi” (We, We, We)


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 nearly 197,000 visitors in 2008, are other mainstays of the economy. 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.

Agriculture – products: copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, fruits, vegetables; beef; fish

Industries: food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3% (2015 est.); 0.8% (2014)

Exports – commodities: copra, beef, cocoa, timber, kava, coffee

Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, fuels

Currency: vatu (VUV)

Energy Electricity: 120V USA plug-in type

Communications – Telephone system: international country code – 678; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)

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 (2008)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2001)

Television broadcast stations: 1 (2004)

Internet country code: .vu

Internet users: percent of population: 11.5% (2014 est.)

Transportation – Airports: 31, only 3 with paved runways, others with unpaved runways

Roadways – total 1,070 km, paved 256 km, unpaved 814 km

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

Military and Security: no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), Vanuatu Mobile Force VMF, includes Police Maritime Wing (PMW)