SEATTLE — Consisting of volcanic islands and plagued by a diverse group of recurring natural disasters, the success of humanitarian aid to Samoa relies almost entirely upon the country’s ability to adapt to the unending threat of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters.
Although Samoa is one of the more economically successful countries in Polynesia, nearly 20 percent of its 195,000 civilians live below the poverty line, according to the Rural Poverty Portal.
Samoa’s biggest threat to its economy and infrastructure are natural disasters, and unfortunately, disasters can often create a domino effect, crippling the success of humanitarian aid to Samoa. For example, in 2009 an 8.0 magnitude earthquake created a tsunami that killed 143 people and destroyed many villages, ultimately affecting 2.5 percent of the country’s population. In 2012, Tropical Cyclone Evan hit Samoa, displacing more than 7,700 people. To combat these devastating storms, organizations have worked on providing aid in the form of early warning systems and other technologies to help mitigate the disaster’s effects.
In response to Tropical Cyclone Evan, U.S. Foreign Disaster Resistance provided Samoa with $150,000 in relief, providing water, sanitation and hygiene commodities. According to Radio New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank provided Samoa and neighboring islands with $15 million in grants and loans in 2017 to help strengthen their disaster resilience.
The World Bank has contributed more than $88 million to a Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program to assist Samoa in preparing for and reacting to natural disasters. Directly affecting the agriculture industry, which employs two-thirds of the population, natural disasters can be blamed for Samoa’s economic struggles, according to the World Bank.
Because agriculture is such a huge industry in Samoa, the success of humanitarian aid to Samoa can be measured in rural areas, where farmers see the effects of natural disasters firsthand. Soil erosion from deforestation and harsh disasters make farming a difficult process for Samoans. According to the World Bank, about 70 percent of beef in Samoa is imported, which leaves local farmers a large window to commercialize their cattle and profit off their livestock.
In response to this, the World Bank worked with the Samoan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to create the Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project (SACEP). SACEP’s goal is to improve local farmers’ techniques and opportunities for raising livestock. To introduce new genetics to Samoan livestock, cattle were flown from Australia to Samoa in 2015. The program also provided funds for farmers to enhance their pasture and increase their herd. After three years, the project showed results, increasing the calving rate (rate of cows that give birth) from 48 percent to 64 percent and financing farmers about $316,500 for 172 farmers to increase their herd.
The success of humanitarian aid to Samoa can also be measured in access to clean water, sanitation, education and even employment. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and trade, Australia implemented its Aid Investment Plan (AIP) with multiple areas of focus, including education and employment in Samoa, which is active until 2019. AIP’s goals include improving elementary education to include girls as well as a focus on literacy. It also provides scholarships for Samoans to pursue secondary education in Australia. AIP also focuses on promoting employment through its Seasonal Worker Program as well as opening up new job opportunities for women.
Costing more than $20 million, the Water for Life project in Samoa focused on providing clean, sustainable water sources as well as basic sanitation in an attempt to eliminate poverty. The project was funded by the European Development Fund and ended in 2016.
While not the poorest country in the world, the success of humanitarian aid to Samoa is heavily influenced by a wide range of natural disasters that continue to keep its economy from reaching its full potential. However, with funding and helpful programs from neighbors like Australia, New Zealand and many others, Samoa is continuously developing into a stronger and more independent nation.
– Austin Stoltzfus