The Causes of Poverty in Nauru


YAREN, Nauru — Nauru is a tropical, pacific island located northeast of Australia. Nauru is one of the smallest countries in the world at about eight square miles. Its principal source of revenue is the export of phosphate. Unfortunately, Nauru’s phosphate reserves are running dry. Therefore, poverty in Nauru is susceptible to increase. This article will look into some of the causes of poverty in Nauru.

On Nauru, the extraction of phosphate is a century-old practice. Phosphate exports are the soul of the economy although the reliance on these exports damages life for its citizens. Nauru’s dependence on phosphate exports led its government to ignore the consequences of phosphate mines. As a result, only 10% of Nauru is suitable for farming. “Cadmium residue, phosphate dust and other contaminants” pollute the island. A majority of the population now inhabit the Southwest coast of the island.

Causes of Poverty In Nauru

Poverty in Nauru is prevalent. In 2013, the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) found only 76% of Nauruan’s live above “the basic needs poverty line.” This leaves 24% in poverty with another 28.3% still vulnerable to fall below this line. Children and families are those who are most vulnerable. The country’s reliance on income from phosphate exports, foreign aid and refugee detention facilities do not provide alternative opportunities for citizens to obtain income. In 2013-14, the youth unemployment rate was 44%. Poverty in Nauru, therefore, prevents the ability of adolescents to disrupt the cycle of poverty. Here are some of the causes for poverty in Nauru.

  1. Wealth Distribution and Inequality: Nauru’s level of inequality is among the highest in the Pacific. The possession of Nauruan citizens exposes the inequality of wealth. For example, only one in 10 Nauruan’s who are classified as poor, have access to basic household items, such as a refrigerator, internet or computers and television.
  2. Health Concerns: Nauruan’s also experience high rates of diabetes and obesity. Depending on the age group, the prevalence of diabetes ranges from 16.2% to 45%. Diets primarily consist of rice, raw sugar and chicken. Low consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is prevalent. In 2007, almost 97% of Nauruans reported eating fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The harmful effect of these behaviors contributes to the decline in the economic status of the nation.
  3. Climate Change: Nauruans also must adapt to climate change. Climate change has been shown to increase sea levels and increase episodes of water shortages due to low rainfall. Nauru has also experienced recurrent droughts and inadequate availability to freshwater resources. The increase in temperature has even affected education since there is no air conditioning in classrooms. Many students are deterred from walking to school and sitting it hot classrooms.

Support from Australia

Since few resources naturally exist on Nauru, the island relies on imports from Australia for its necessities. Australia provides millions of dollars of aid to promote Nauru’s public sector, infrastructure and education services. In return, Nauru hosts asylum seekers through the establishment of the Australian Regional Processing Center. This has provided some growth to the economy. The initial 2013 agreement outlined around $90 million in aid to Nauru. Employment from the center increased revenue for the island “from $20 million in 2010-11 to $115 million in 2015-16.”

Although progress has been made, the causes of poverty in Nauru are liable to increase. Nauru’s economic dependence on phosphate places the country in a vulnerable state. The century-long implementation of phosphate mines has also harmed the country’s environment, citizen’s health, source of income and wealth distribution. Awareness needs to spotlight the country’s inability to become self-sustainable in the near future.

John Brinkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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