The Republic of Vanuatu, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, consists of 13 main islands and many more smaller ones. Distant neighbors include Australia, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Fiji. Vanuatu is home to active volcanoes, including Yasur, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The population of about 300,000 is majority ethnic Melanesian, and they speak more than 100 local languages, in addition to Bislama, English, and French. As much as 70 percent of the population identifies as Protestant, with a smaller proportion of Roman Catholics. Over two-thirds of Vanuatu’s population lives in rural areas; urban dwellers reside in the capital of Port-Vila and in Luganville.
During its colonial history, Vanuatu was colonized and governed by Spain in the 1600s, and later France and the United Kingdom. However, a movement for independence started in the 1970s, and by 1980 the Republic of Vanuatu was established. Since then the economy has remained grounded in small-scale and subsistence agriculture, with a few larger commodities such as kava, beef, copra, timber, and cocoa. However, because of climate instability and fluctuations in commodity prices, the country is diversifying its economy with manufacturing, service-sector businesses, and tourism.
Residents and visitors to Vanuatu face a high risk of infectious diseases, such as malaria and bacterial diarrhea. These have decreased over time, but continue to contribute to the leading causes of death in the country. In addition, non-communicable diseases have increased substantially over time as causes of the most deaths in Vanuatu. These include ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, and chronic kidney disease. The risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include high blood pressure, air pollution, high fasting plasma glucose, high body-mass index, dietary risks, malnutrition, tobacco use, high LDL levels, kidney dysfunction, and insufficient sanitation and clean water.