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
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 S, 167 00 E
Population: 256,155 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 33,968/female 32,550)

15-64 years: 66.1% (male 75,559/female 72,919)

65 years and over: 4.3% (male 4,862/female 4,706) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu

conventional short form: Vanuatu

local long form: Ripablik blong Vanuatu

local short form: Vanuatu

former: New Hebrides

Government type: parliamentary republic
Telephones – main lines in use: 5,000 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 285,300 (2009)
Airports:  31 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2012)

Military branches: no regular military forces; Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF; includes Police Maritime Wing (PMW)) (2009)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 62,216 (2010 est.)


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 more than 60,000 visitors in 2005, 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.

Transnational Issues:

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