- 3 out of the world’s 5
- most disaster-prone countries are in the Pacific
- 8 out of 20
- countries with the highest disaster-related GDP losses are Pacific Island Countries
- 1 in 4
- Pacific Islanders are likely to be living below their country’s basic-needs poverty line
The Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions to natural hazards in the world, with climate-related shocks and disasters increasingly posing threats to sustainable growth and stability in the region. Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands rank among the highest in the world for disaster risk, according to the World Risk Index 2021.
Average direct losses due to natural disasters in the South Pacific are estimated at US$284 million per year. In the medium to longer term, climate-related disasters are expected to increase in number and scale, especially in relation to El Niño and La Niña cycles.
Despite the extreme vulnerability to natural hazards, Pacific Island countries have enjoyed progress in recent decades, with an increase in life expectancy and a decline in infant mortality. However, economic growth has been well below the global average, and the prevalence of micro- and macronutrient deficiencies among women and children remains a significant concern. One in four children in Vanuatu, one in three children in the Solomon Islands and one in two children in Papua New Guinea are reported as being stunted. Poorly nourished children are more vulnerable to disease, tend to show lower performance in school, and are less likely to be productive adults. The prolonged health and socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 can only be expected to further deepen these vulnerabilities. The small land size, remoteness and fragile ecosystems of Pacific nations creates significant challenges for in managing disaster risks.
In 2020-21, WFP responded to three major emergencies in the Pacific – Vanuatu (Tropical Cyclone Harold) and Fiji (Yasa and Ana) – alongside the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. WFP has supported the regional response to COVID-19 through participation in regional coordination bodies, and by extending technical and capacity-strengthening support to Pacific governments and strategic and humanitarian partners in logistics, aviation, emergency telecommunications and food security. In the aftermath of TC Harold, WFP also supported the Government of Fiji in delivering shock-responsive social protection through cash top-ups to social welfare recipients in affected areas. Three significant emergency response operations were mounted earlier in the region during 2015-16: Vanuatu (Tropical Cyclone Pam), Fiji (Winston) and Papua New Guinea (El Niño drought).
WFP’s Pacific Multi-Country Office in Suva, Fiji, coordinates activities to strengthen the emergency preparedness and response capacities of Pacific Island Countries, in line with the organization’s global mandate and commitments. This includes co-leading the Food Security Cluster and Regional Cash Working Group, and leading the Logistics Cluster and Emergency Telecommunications Cluster.
What the World Food Programme is doing in the Pacific
Emergency preparedness and response
WFP Pacific is engaged in many elements of emergency preparedness and response and anticipatory action, which enables us and our partners to be more effective, efficient and fast-moving when crises erupt. This includes inter-agency support and alignment, coordination in emergencies through the Logistics, Food Security, and Emergency Telecommunications clusters, operational information management, and knowledge management.
WFP common logistics services
WFP supports the planning of emergency facilities, identifying and addressing shortfalls, and national-level logistics capacity assessments. Its Pacific Emergency and Response Logistics project standardizes humanitarian logistics training, while the Pacific Logistics Mapping platform provides regional humanitarian coordination. To support the COVID-19 pandemic response, WFP provides warehousing support and operates the Pacific Humanitarian Air Service.
WFP focuses on capacity strengthening and promoting the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster approach – within the national disaster management organizations across the region – through support for the development of national emergency telecommunication plans, and knowledge and skill development via targeted training and workshops. WFP supports Pacific countries by providing technical advice and equipment, and by deploying personnel across the region.
WFP conducts extensive regional food security vulnerability analysis and mapping, including mobile Vulnerability Assessment Mapping, rapid-assessment training workshops, development of standard operating procedures and the compilation of food-security data sets and profiles for each Pacific Island country. WFP is strengthening shock-responsive social protection and cash preparedness, and piloted a climate risk-insurance initiative in Fiji.
Country capacity strengthening
On government request, WFP Pacific works to develop the capacity and knowledge of national authorities, staff and stakeholders at country level, to coordinate, design and lead preparedness, anticipation, response and resilience actions in its cluster lead areas of logistics, food security and emergency telecommunications.