SEATTLE — There are 22 small island countries and territories in the South Pacific. Amongst them are Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Tonga. Each faces many issues.
Fighting poverty in the South Pacific islands poses a unique challenge. The islands’ widespread geographical locations across approximately 19 million miles of ocean and diverse cultures do not allow for a single strategy to be implemented. While these islands share a host of similar challenges, such as vulnerability to environmental disasters and limited domestic markets, they are also at varying stages of socioeconomic development.
In Papua New Guinea, 60 percent of the population is reportedly without access to safe water compared to 4.3 percent in Fiji and 0.4 percent in Tonga. In Samoa, nearly 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, while only 12.7 percent of Vanuatu’s population lives in poverty. These figures illustrate the quantitative differences in the extent of poverty on the islands.
Projects tackling poverty in the South Pacific are being developed on international, federal and civil levels.
International organizations such as Hepatitis B Free, an Australian non-profit organization, bring medical attention and supplies to the most remote parts of Papua New Guinea. Its mission is to work towards Sustainable Development Goal 3.3., to end hepatitis by 2030. The organization achieves its goals by collaborating with local doctors in Papua New Guinea to educate and pass on transferable medical skills and resources. Working with the government, local enterprises and local citizens, Hepatitis B Free has created a sustainable vaccination practice and bolstered the local economy.
National governments are getting involved in efforts to mitigate poverty in the South Pacific. India has called for greater south-south cooperation and greater partnerships between developing nations to work toward a more economically stable future. A formal India-U.N. Development Partnership Fund was established in June 2017 to fund and support Southern-owned development projects. Among its goals are specific targets relating to Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The fund hopes to help local entrepreneurs to stimulate their island’s economy.
On the civil society level, farmers and local businesses are looking to capitalize on the boom in demand for local produce such as kava. Fiji’s kava exports came in at about $4.3 million USD in 2015. Farmers and produce-sellers are finding innovative ways to ensure their businesses can survive bad weather. As local businesses and exports grow, non-profit organizations are aiding farmers to ensure maximum growth and sustainability.
Undoubtedly, poverty in the South Pacific will remain an issue in the coming years. However, if international organizations and national governments enact poverty-reducing programs and continue to bolster civilians, significant progress may not be too far off in the future.
– Sydney Nam