Suva, Fiji – Tuvalu a group of 9 atoll islands in the Pacific Ocean, has a large ocean territory adjoining Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis & Futuna and is home to 12,000 people. It has received its fair share of disasters and its low-lying atolls have experienced destructive cyclones, droughts, flooding from high tides and storm waves. Environmental shocks and natural hazards have had significant impacts on Tuvalu’s fragile economy and food security.
Tropical Cyclone Gavin, Hina and Keli in 1997, TC Pam in 2015 and TC Tino in January this year, brought about heavy rain and strong winds that severely damaged the tiny coral atolls’ infrastructure and communications systems; large waves caused marine water flooding, damaging tree crops and taro gardens and water storage facilities. The LaNina associated drought in 2011 affected nearly everyone in Tuvalu who rely heavily on rainfall catchments for drinking water. The government declared a state of emergency rationing two buckets of fresh water per family per day in Funafuti and Nukulaelae, a challenge for an average family size of six persons to use for cooking, drinking, cleaning and washing.
Climate change and sea level rise poses a significant threat to ecosystem services and resources which support livelihoods. Food security is critically threatened especially given land in Tuvalu is often less than 1m above high tide levels. It follows that the combination of climate change stress, sealevel rise and successive natural disasters can negate development gains and derailed economic momentum critical to the progressive trajectory for Tuvalu.
Strengthening Disaster Preparedness
The Government of Tuvalu in partnership with the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) has finalised its Country Preparedness Package (CPP), a document outlining Tuvalu’s Disaster Risk Management Structure, legislations, and policies intended to strengthen the preparedness and collaboration between national as well as with international actors in disaster response.
The theme for this year’s International Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) Day, is #ItsAllAboutGovernance working towards target E to “substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2030” closely linked to priority for Action 2: “Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.” (Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015- 2030).
Mr. Sumeo Silu, the Director for the Department of Disaster Management said “We know we are vulnerable to disasters due to our remoteness and geographical size; we have witnessed how the changes in climate has exacerbated already existing challenges and has negated Tuvalu’s sustainable development and poverty reduction.”
“The completion of the Tuvalu CPP coinciding with IDRR day is timely and we acknowledge all the contributors, this will strengthen Tuvalu’s DRR governance strategies.”
Silu added that over the years the Tuvalu government received development assistance to equip and build Tuvalu’s resilience to the impacts of disasters; and the development and completion of Tuvalu’s CPP will further ensure, disaster preparedness and early recovery is coordinated to meet the needs on the ground and is in tune with Government policies and priorities for the people of Tuvalu.
“We cannot completely prevent disasters, but we have the ability to strengthen our capacity to prepare, respond and recover and build forward better through this CPP; and with the support our close partners UNDP and other agencies through the Pacific Humanitarian Team,” said Silu.
The CPP for Tuvalu was developed with the technical and financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Disaster Resilience for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (RESPAC) project funded by the Russian Federation and the technical support from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on behalf of the PHT.
Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji said “UNDP’s support will strengthen Tuvalu’s capabilities to manage disaster recovery processes. Given the natural disasters Tuvalu has faced and the complexities created due to COVID-19, it is clear that a completed Country Preparedness Plan (CPP) will allow Tuvalu and the PHT to confidently stand ready and prepared to combat whatever comes its way.”
Mr. Bouadze added UNDP’s support through the RESPAC project is part of a broader goal to strengthen institutional governance to manage effective disaster recovery processes, to reduce risks and promote resilient development.
“The process to complete the CPP involved all stakeholders in disaster preparedness and response. I am told it was an engaging and inclusive process, as all partners reviewed and provided feedback. This is important to ensure that the needs of all members of the community, women, children, elderly, and those living with a disability are captured,” said Mr. Bouadze.
The Tuvalu CPP will be the fourth CPP to be launched in the Pacific and was developed on the back of the successes of the CPP development processes for the Republic of Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Cook Islands CPP.
Members of the PHT include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Organization for Migration, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, OXFAM, Save the Children, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the United Nations Children Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations World Food Programme, the UNDP and the UNOCHA.
The UNDP RESPAC project supports National Disaster Management Offices and local governments in the Pacific to enhance capabilities in disaster preparedness, mitigation, post disaster recovery planning and build capacity to conduct Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA).
For more information contact:
UNDP Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Advisor and RESPAC Project Manager, Noud Leenders, Email: Noud.Leenders@undp.org
RESPAC Communications Specialist, Andrea Waqa – Montu, Email: Andrea.Waqa-Montu@undp.org, T: (679) 3227546