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Vanuatu - People

The total population of Vanuatu was estimated to be 205,754 people (estimated in July, 2005). About 95% of the population is indigenous known as "Ni-Vanuatu". The other segment of the population includes people of different nationalities, such as Australians, New Zealanders, Europeans, Asians and other Pacific Islanders. Over 20% live in the two large cities of Port Vila and Luganville. More than 30,000 people live in the capital city of Port Vila. A few of the islands are Polynesian outliers. About 2,000 Ni-Vanuatu live and work on New Caledonia.

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.

The population of Vanuatu is 94% indigenous Melanesian. About 44,040 live in the capital, Port Vila. Another 13,167 live in Luganville (or Santo Town) on Espiritu Santo. The remainder live in rural areas. Approximately 2,000 ni-Vanuatu live and work in New Caledonia.

Although local pidgin, called Bislama, is the national language, English and French also are official languages. Indigenous Melanesians speak 105 local languages. Business is conducted mainly in English, although there are many French companies who conduct their business in both French and English. The principal languages of education are English and French, and with the current revised education policies, vernacular is being introduced in some schools in rural areas. The University of the South Pacific has a campus in Port Vila with currently 930 students enrolled from around the Pacific.

Christianity has had a profound influence on ni-Vanuatu society, and an estimated 82% of the population is affiliated with one of the Christian denominations. The largest denominations are Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Anglican. John Frum, a syncretic sect, also is important on Tanna Island.

Over 40 percent of the population is under 15 years of age, with high youth unemployment and development of a large peri-urban fringe, especially in Port Vila. There are low education levels (only six percent tertiary and seven percent secondary), and not a large pool of experience and talent to draw from. Health issues include low rates of child immunisation; limited access to health facilities such as doctors, nurses and dentists; and underage mortality. Domestic violence and violence against women and children are major social problems in Vanuatu. Traditional cultures are prone to domestic violence when exposed to rapid urbanisation, land acquisition and resource development projects, often resulting in social dislocation.

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