What You Need to Know about Poverty in the Pacific Islands

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SEATTLE — Poverty, exclusion and vulnerability are on the rise in the Pacific Islands, with one in four individuals living below their national basic-needs poverty line. However, initiatives led by the World Bank and other international organizations strive to regain economic security in the region.

The Pacific Islands consist of several nations, many of which are members of the World Bank including Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Economic vulnerability plagues the region as a result of its geographical remoteness and spread, susceptibility to natural disasters, small internal markets paired with high exposure to overseas markets and limited natural resources.

Further, two decades of poor economic performance, population growth and urban migration have contributed to increasing inequalities and poverty in the Pacific Islands. Basic services, such as healthcare, safe water, schools, electricity and telephones, are not available in many parts of the region.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to prosperity, having detrimental effects on agricultural production and traditional livelihoods.

In a 2014 report, the UNDP highlighted several strategies to foster economic growth and poverty alleviation among the island states. UNDP specifically suggested increased disaster preparedness and recovery, strengthening democratic governance, and helping the poor gain access to financial services.

Other target areas included providing greater social protection including free medical care to pregnant women and pension care for the elderly. Broader access to basic education for children and youth was also promoted by the UNDP.

Noticing the critical importance of climate resilience to create economic growth, the World Bank, along with the Pacific Island governments, Pacific Rim countries, development partners and civil society, implemented Pacific Possible: Climate and Disaster Resilience, a development plan to be achieved by 2040.

The plan focuses on seven areas: tourism, labor mobility, knowledge economy, fisheries, deep-sea mining, climate change and natural disaster preparedness and non-communicable diseases.

Adaptation strategies for areas of susceptibility, including infrastructure and buildings, coastal protection, water resources, flooding and agriculture, are also promoted by Pacific Possible.

The World Bank and other critical players have taken notice of the rise in poverty in the Pacific Islands. As of this year, the World Bank has lent $752.53 million for a total of 76 projects to help stimulate economic growth and prosperity in this highly vulnerable region.

Anna O’Toole

Photo: Flickr

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