A country comprising a double chain of over 80 south-west Pacific Ocean islands between latitudes 13° and 21°S and longitudes 167° and 170°E.
Only a dozen of Vanuatu's islands are suitable for settlement, the largest being Espíritu Santo, Efate, Malekula, Maewo, Pentecost, Ambrim, Erromanga, and Tanna. Of volcanic origin, they are very hilly. South-east trade winds moderate the heat from May to October.
Coconuts are the most important cash crop on Vanuatu; copra is the country's major export. The soil on the slopes of the extinct volcanoes that form the island group is suitable for growing coffee, while livestock are grazed on the warm, wet plains. Tourism and financial services have been developed.
During the 19th century, thousands of the indigenous people of Vanuatu – Kanakas – were taken to work on sugar plantations in Queensland, Australia. The population was decimated and took many years to recover. The islands were placed under an Anglo-French naval commission in 1887. In World War II they served as a major Allied base. They became an independent republic and member of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1980.
Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)
12,190 sq km (4,707 sq miles)
Christian 89.3%; traditional beliefs 3.5%
Bislama, French, English (all official)
UN; Commonwealth; Pacific Islands Forum; Secretariat of the Pacific Community; Non-Aligned Movement
Subjects: World History.