Nurses in the Solomon IslandsThe Solomon Islands has just two doctors for every 10,000 people. The doctor shortage makes nurses particularly essential, especially as the country faces frequent natural disasters and disease outbreaks. However, nurses are also in short supply. Furthermore, in a country with a 12% poverty rate as of 2013, nurses do not receive proper pay and care. Nurses in the Solomon Islands have faced even more difficulties than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, but new training programs are helping to remedy the shortage.

Nurse Strikes and Protests

Nurses are the primary healthcare providers in the Solomon Islands, but despite this, they consistently struggle with pay allowances rightfully due to them. The Solomon Islands Nurses Association has issued strikes multiple times over the past five years. In 2016, nurses went on strike for “multi-allowances and special duty allowances” that remained unpaid from 2013. The association extended the strike multiple times as nurses fought to receive the outstanding allowances. Eventually, the strike ended when the government agreed to review and listen to nurses’ demands.

In 2018, nurses found that many of the demands from a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2007 remained unmet. It called for public service to pay for transportation, housing and posting and for the government to review five other claims. Eleven years later, those demands remained unmet and nurses issued a 28-day strike notice.

In 2019, the nurses again faced a similar situation. The government had agreed on a payment plan the previous year that would provide the nurses with their incentives at the beginning of 2019. A month into the year, the payment did not come through as agreed upon. Once again, the Solomon Islands Nurses Association issued a 28-day strike notice.

Most recently, in October 2020, nurses working in Honiara, the country’s capital and a COVID-19 emergency zone, threatened to strike if they did not receive allowance pay for working on the front lines. The nurses initiated sit-in protests, but when those were overlooked, they went on strike without government approval.

Strike Repercussions

As a result of the unauthorized strike, the government suspended the Solomon Island Nurses Association as a trade union. The government recognized its inability to pay the nurses but did not believe the strike was in Solomon Islanders’ best interests. However, since the suspension, the government has taken action to address the nurse shortage by improving training programs for nurses.

Supervised Practice Program

In March 2021, 180 registered nurses graduated from the Solomon Islands National University and Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea and Atoifi. The graduates have begun a year-long internship with the newly implemented Supervised Practice Program. The Supervised Practice Program ensures nurses are fully registered before employment, focusing on areas of nursing that need improvement in the Solomon Islands.

The graduates are monitored and tested in attendance and timeliness, nursing ethics, code of conduct adherence and dedication. The Supervised Practice Program will help ensure that the Solomon Islands employs qualified and properly trained nurses. With this program, the government aims to improve healthcare and show support for nurses.

Long-Term Benefits of More Nurses

A lack of proper healthcare not only leads to poor health and a shorter lifespan but can also impact people’s ability to work and earn money, ultimately lowering household income and increasing poverty. People living in poverty are already at high risk of poor health because of limited access to healthcare services, a lack of nutritious food and unhealthy living environments. With increased access to qualified nurses, the people of the Solomon Islands will be able to improve their health and reduce poverty as productive citizens who can contribute to the economy.

The pandemic highlights the essential role of nurses, and as such, it is imperative to value, support and prioritize nurses. With progress for nurses in the Solomon Islands, quality healthcare will be more easily accessible to citizens, helping to reduce disease, death and poverty.

Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

period poverty
Period poverty is an umbrella term that refers to the inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products, education, washing facilities and waste management, especially for menstruators with low incomes. Menstruators who lack the education or access to resources for safe period management often resort to risky methods such as using rags and clothing, which can lead to bacterial infections that can cause further physical health risks.

Today, there are over 800 million women and girls that have periods every day, yet they still face difficulties to properly manage their menstruation. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people across the globe live without basic sanitation services in developing countries. Meanwhile, 73% of people lack access to proper handwashing facilities at home.

COVID-19 affects menstrual health and hygiene by exacerbating pre-existing inequalities regarding period poverty worldwide.

COVID-19 and Period Poverty

As stated by Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International U.K., “the virus is making the situation worse. We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world, but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”

The disruption of global supply chains and ceased trading of smaller-scale private sector enterprises has led to product shortages. This shortage is the primary issue affecting women’s access to safe sanitary products. The price of sanitary products has also increased during the pandemic. It is extremely hard for families to afford these products since the pandemic has also affected household incomes.

“As most shops have run out, I sometimes have to substitute in different ways instead,” said a teenage girl from the Solomon Islands.

“Prices went up as soon as there was a confirmed case of COVID19 in Fiji. Sometimes I have to forgo buying hygiene products as money will have to be used on food and bills,” said a young woman in Fiji.

Stigmatization of Menstruation

Most of the world stigmatizes menstruation. Social stigmas and taboos about menstruation is another key factor that prevents women and girls from properly managing their periods. In Nepal, people perceive menstruating women as impure. Their community expels them to huts for the duration of their cycles. In Uganda, non-governmental agency WoMena showed that many girls skip school when they are on their periods. The primary reason: to avoid teasing from classmates.

Since the rise of COVID-19, some people have associated menstruation as a sign of illness. Although having periods is normal and healthy, there are myths stating that menstruation is a symptom of the coronavirus and that menstruators have a higher chance of infecting others. These myths are badly affecting period poverty by increasing the stigma of menstruation. The negative perceptions of menstruation, such that it is a symptom of an illness and that it should be something to hide from others, should change in order to stop period poverty.

A young woman from the Solomon Islands said “Sometimes [I feel shame]. Especially when I am not able to clean myself during water cuts. I feel embarrassed to walk around my family.”

Organizations Making a Difference

I Support The Girls is an organization that collects and distributes bras and menstruation products to people who need them around the globe. The organization mentioned that it has seen a 35% increase in requests for menstrual products, bras and underwear since the outbreak of the virus. In response, the organization collected and distributed over 2,000,000 products, partnered up with businesses to distribute surplus inventory, and more.

Plan International U.K. is another organization that fights period poverty; it distributes menstrual hygiene kits to support women and girls disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Facts about Education in the Solomon Islands

With a population of just over 600,000 people, the Solomon Islands are comprised of six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands. The sovereign state’s unique geography and relatively low population make for a unique education system that continues to work toward solving issues such as extreme poverty, remote populations and a serious lack of budget allocation and funding. Below are eight facts about education in the Solomon Islands that dive deeper into what makes the education system so unique, what it is working to improve and how those improvements are being brought about.

8 Facts about Education in the Solomon Islands

  1. There are limited options for higher education.
    Education in the Solomon Islands consists of six years of primary education and seven years of secondary education. Afterward, students who wish to complete a higher education within the Solomon Islands must attend one of three colleges in the country. The colleges are the Solomon Islands Teachers College, the Honiara Technical Institute and a branch of the University of the South Pacific. Apart from these three institutions, limited opportunities for higher education are available.
  2. The country has low completion and attendance rates.
    Less than 50 percent of children residing in the Solomon Islands complete the full six years of primary education. There is no minimum amount of education mandated by law for children. Furthermore, many children are unable to attend to due to an environment of extreme poverty and dedication to a subsistence-based living. Attendance for secondary school is much lower than that of primary and presents a substantial gender skew. For example, 32 percent of the young male population is attending versus 27 percent of young females.
  3. All campuses are in the capital.
    The location of campuses for higher education in the Solomon Islands is problematic for much of the population. All campuses are in the capital city. Therefore, citizens from a poor background or distant location have limited access to achieve success in the higher education center. To counteract this, the Solomon government has established the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education in partnership with the University of the South Pacific. This college offers a diverse set of first-year university courses, complete training for teachers. The school offers education in finances, nursing and secretarial work. Additionally, it teaches technical education for careers uniquely relevant to the Solomon Islands such as fishing, forestry and agriculture.
  4. It has poor government funding.
    Another tidbit among these facts about education in the Solomon Islands is regarding government financial assistance. Public education in the Solomon Islands struggles to receive funding from the Solomon government. This funding can give educators and leaders more ability to reach out to a large population of potential students who are unable to attend otherwise. Government spending on education in the Solomon Islands has decreased to 17 percent.
  5. It has a low literacy rate.
    The average literacy rate for citizens 15 years and older is around 76 percent. This ranks the Solomon Islands 142nd in comparison with other countries in the context of the population’s literacy rate. This low percentage is likely due to a number of factors. Some examples include the lack of compulsory education, low enrollment rates and the prevalence of extreme poverty.
  6. There are improvements to its quality of education.
    The Solomon Island government is currently putting an effort forth in improving the quality of both primary and secondary education within the country. For example, one effort is emphasizing examinations within the education system. These exams focus on approving literacy among students. There are also programs to extend the reach of educational facilities toward communities isolated from urban centers.
  7. Education wasn’t always government-ran.
    Until the 1970s, mission schools provided all education in the Solomon Islands. Afterward, local government authorities took responsibility for education. In 1981, a government act created nine government with the responsibility of local education.
  8. There is an emphasis on vocational training.
    Vocational education is very important in the Solomon Islands. Many who practice subsistence farming and fishing will be able to begin practicing for-profit practices that will bring development to their region.

With a set of unique challenges, these eight facts about education in the Solomon Islands reflect the progress necessary to improve the population’s access to quality education.

– Jordan AbuAljazer
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to the Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a small island nation in the Western Pacific located just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. As same as for many other distant countries, many Americans might wonder how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to the Solomon Islands? The reasoning lies primarily behind the economic and geopolitical environment of the Solomon Islands, both of which make this small country a good candidate for aid.

The relationship between U.S. and Solomon Islands

The relationship between the United States and the Solomon Islands began during World War II when the U.S. had a large-scale presence on the Islands. Today, the relationship is still very strong.

According to the U.S. State Department, the mutual goals of the United States and the Solomon Islands are:  improving regional stability, promoting democracy and human rights, combating trafficking in persons, responding to climate change, increasing trade, and promoting sustainable economic development”.

In the statement above the economic and geopolitical factors influencing U.S. investment in the Islands are emphasized. Geopolitically, The Solomon Islands lie in a strategic area. Per USAID, “A vast proportion of the world’s shipping passes through Pacific waters, making the Pacific Islands central to global security and the global economy”. For this reason, a close relationship with the Solomon Islands guarantees freedom of U.S. shipping interests and gives leverage to the United States in related conflicts, some of which occurred recently.

Furthermore, in a region that has significant geopolitical importance and was targeted by China, providing foreign aid to the Solomon Islands gives the U.S. an ally in a strategic location. This idea has been reinforced by the fact that Solomon Islands national security officials receive training and educational opportunities by the U.S. military. Clearly the U.S. Benefits from foreign aid to the Solomon Islands in this regard.

Economically, the Solomon Islands are an ideal candidate for aid since they are a relatively poor country. As a result, the impact of humanitarian aid in improving the lives of those on the island and in creating a strong relationship between the two countries is substantial.

Climate change effect on the Solomon Islands

Since this is an area highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, U.S. foreign aid to the Solomon Islands has helped this small country cope with climate change. In 2014, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance pledged 250,000 dollars to help the Solomon Islands recover from Cyclone Ita, a natural disaster that affected more than 50,000 people.

This illustrates another example of how the U.S. Benefits from foreign aid to the Solomon Islands. With climate change accelerating, vulnerable island communities such as the Solomon Islands are facing a growing existential crisis. As is the case with many of the Pacific Island nations, the Solomon Islands are poor and inadequately equipped to cope with such a crisis. In order to avert a humanitarian crisis with potentially destabilizing effects for the global community, the U.S. Foreign aid to the Solomon Islands helps ensure that the island community can be better prepared for the effects of climate change. As a result, aid to island countries is acting as an upfront cost to ensure that a bigger humanitarian crisis on the horizon never happens.

Although relatively small, U.S. foreign aid to the Solomon Islands helps protect American interests in the region and prevents a larger humanitarian crisis in the country itself that would require more resources in the future.

Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in the Solomon Islands

Sustainable agriculture in the Solomon Islands is not as big a concern as it is in regions where domestic agriculture is the main source of food and income. The Solomon Islands does have a small agricultural sector, but for the most part, the nation is very dependent on imported food. Some projects in the country have focused on creating more sustainable agricultural practices, but most focus on disaster preparedness.

Help from Multinational Organizations

Since the Solomon Islands is a Pacific Island country, it is very susceptible to natural disasters, particularly with the increased volatility of climate change. These disasters typically threaten food security and make it very difficult to consistently import food into the country. Organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have worked with the government of the Solomon Islands to improve disaster preparedness and response. Additionally, the FAO has worked with the Ministry of Health to improve standards of sanitization for imported foods and other food control systems.

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation also operates in the Solomon Islands. A major project conducted by the organization was the Sustainable Seaweed Farming project. Seaweed farming is a common practice on the islands, and with increased pollution, it is important that practices for sustainable agriculture in the Solomon Islands are in use. This project helped manage overharvesting and helped reduce damage to the coral reef ecosystems.

Government Policy Focused on Agriculture

The Solomon Islands does have its own ministries and departments that manage agricultural issues on the islands. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock creates and disseminates policy regarding plans for sustainable rural development, food security and improved livelihoods. These policies are very transparent and easily accessible.

Additionally, these policies are comprehensively broken down into four categories:

  • Farmers/Private Sector/Industry
  • Government and Policymakers
  • Women, Youth and NGOs
  • Development Partners

These categories show a good understanding by the government of who has a stake in the agriculture industry. It shows participation by the government in rural communities, in which almost 80 percent of the population lives. Most of these people additionally rely on agriculture for a portion of their income.

Ultimately, sustainable agriculture in the Solomon Islands is doing quite well, despite it not being a major focus for the island. Through the diligence of the government and projects run by independent organizations the Solomon Islands has implemented green farming and development practices and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to the solomon islandsConsisting of hundreds of small islands and home to roughly 600,000 people, the Solomon Islands face an array of climate-related and social issues that have caught the world’s attention. Countries and organizations are currently sending humanitarian aid to the Solomon Islands to transform the island chain into a safer place to live.

As islands in the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Islands are constantly threatened by some of the worst that weather and climate change have to offer: cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and extensive flooding. In response to this, organizations like the Asian Development Bank have worked to create disaster-resilient infrastructure, including structures and roadways. Its Sustainable Transport Infrastructure Improvement Program aims to improve transport infrastructure and maintain roadways so that they will be fully accessible year-round.

A vital piece of creating consistently accessible roadways in the Solomon Islands is ensuring that all roads are climate-resilient, which is the goal by 2030, according to the Asian Development Bank. By improving transport conditions, the Asian Development Bank hopes to boost the local agriculture industry and reveal new economic opportunities for those living in rural areas.

Natural disasters in the Solomon Islands can have devastating effects. With its ranking of sixth on the World Risk Report’s disaster exposure rating, reducing these effects should be a top priority. Without the implementation of communication technologies to warn civilians of imminent threats, disasters can cause an exponentially higher level of destruction and death than what could have been avoided.

According to ABC International Development, the Solomon Islands Media Assistance Scheme (SOLMAS) was a project that worked to implement a stronger communications program. Funded by the Australian government, SOLMAS helped the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation upgrade its transmission infrastructure to expand the broadcasting audience. By increasing the audience and reaching out to rural areas, disaster awareness and preparedness have improved drastically.

Also reaching out to citizens in rural areas is the World Bank, which implemented the Rural Development Program (RDP). According to the World Bank, less than 20 percent of people in rural areas have access to electricity, falling to below 5 percent in the outer islands. Sanitation also presents an alarming statistic, with only 15 percent having access to flush toilets. Beginning in 2008, RDP supplies grants to in-need communities. More than 300 projects have been completed, positively impacting about 50 percent of the rural population, or 225,000 people. Projects providing humanitarian aid to the Solomon Islands have spanned water access, electricity and education to road maintenance. As of 2013, the rural area’s access to clean water doubled and more than 50 percent of farmers changed their agricultural practices following advice from the project.

Despite the lack of adequate infrastructure, rural areas are not the only region to receive humanitarian aid to the Solomon Islands. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program, open public spaces are a rare commodity in urban areas with overcrowded cities. UNHabitat is currently working to improve conditions in the capital city of Honiara by developing a sustainable plan to maintain public spaces. The project, Participatory Slum Upgrading Program, cost about $100,000.

Humanitarian aid to the Solomon Islands has been proven to improve living conditions in the islands and is essential to creating sustainable infrastructure. By upgrading sanitation, access to water and transport infrastructure, economic opportunities will continue to open.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Infrastructure in the Solomon Islands
Although the infrastructure in the Solomon Islands has improved with financial support gained from minor tourism and the help of other countries invested in the islands, there is still much more that can be done.

The country lies on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire.” Frequent volcanic and tectonic activity produce earthquakes and tsunamis plague the islands, and destructive events like these mean that the infrastructure in the Solomon Islands often requires maintenance and rebuilding.


Boat and Road Networks

Since the country is composed of many islands, the main transportation used in the Solomon Islands is by boat, but there is a small road network throughout much of the islands as well. Much of this road system is unpaved and often requires maintenance and rebuilding due to both heavy rainfall and natural disasters. Although the building and maintenance of this road system are controlled by the government, much of its funding comes from foreign support.

As of 2012, the road network on the Solomon Islands is moving towards a more weatherproof system. Funded by the country’s government as well as foreign aid from countries such as Australia and New Zealand, some roads have been paved and bridges made from material that can better withstand the rainy climate and extreme weather conditions. In addition, the rebuilding of road infrastructure also provides the people of the Solomon Islands with many jobs.


Structural Instability

Much of the structures on the Solomon Islands are minimal and basic. Homes and buildings are also threatened by the frequent natural disasters that hit the island.The towns where these homes and structures reside often lack any form of electricity. Only major towns such as the capital, Honiara, have access to power; even then, electricity is minimal and mainly provided by diesel generators.

Lack of electricity also means that the many of the people living in the Solomon Islands do not have access to what other countries would consider necessities i.e. communication via telephone and cellphone, and the ability to use the internet, watch television or even listen to a radio.


Electrical Need

Having one of the lowest access rates to electricity in the world, power has been something the Solomon Islands has been trying to implement in their communities for many years. Often, the only way the Solomon Islands are able to improve access considerably is with the aid of other countries.

Many improvements to the small power grids in the country have been made through foreign investment. A notable instance of this occurred in 2014 when the U.S.-based organization, the World Bank, financed $13 million for electricity improvement in Honiara. This money was given to the Solomon Islands Sustainable Energy Project (SISEP) to help improve the efficiency and reliability of the already existing power grid, as well as expand its reach.


Essential and Impactful Foreign Aid

With the support and investment of other countries, the infrastructure in the Solomon Islands is slowly improving and persevering against harsh natural conditions. Not only does financing infrastructure on the islands help its people by improving their living conditions, but it also provides them with jobs and more stable incomes.

As the infrastructure of the islands improves, it also allows the country to become more open to tourism. Receiving profit from tourism means that the island can continue to grow and aid both its people and many other investor countries.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr

The third-largest nation in the Pacific, the Solomon Islands, is located northeast of Australia and west of Vanuatu. It has a population of about 600,000 with a land area of almost 28,000 square kilometers. Women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands currently endures great difficulties, though is in progress. Despite the ratified conventions passed to eliminate any form of discrimination against women in 2012, there is no legislation on domestic violence, such as marital rape, in the Solomon Islands.

In 2007, only 67 percent of adult females and 84 percent of adult males were literate in the Solomon Islands. While this sharp contrast has gradually shrunk in the past ten years, women performed poorer than men in gross enrollment at almost all levels of education. In tertiary education, female students took up only 38 percent of total enrollment in 2012, and were concentrated in tourism, hospitality and education.

Another concern for women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands is related to improving their health conditions. Malaria infections are high in pregnant women and children. There is a shortage of fresh water, fruits and vegetables in women’s diets, and this contributes to a high maternal mortality rate. Huge numbers of sexually transmitted infections come from early marriage, sexual violence and culturally sanctioned male infidelity, all of which contribute to gender inequality in the nation.

Lower levels of education and vulnerability to health issues leads to the poorer status of women in the economy. A large gap in employment rates sees 72.2 percent of men and 60.4 percent of women employed in the Solomon Islands. Land ownership and other traditional property rights still exclude women, despite the fact that 76.2 percent of women are involved in subsistence work, compared to 58.1 percent of men.

Female political leaders in this nation are almost nonexistent. Freda Tuki Soriocomua is the only woman holding one of the 50 seats in parliament, and also serves as minister for women. As claimed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in June 2017, the Solomon Islands has the sixth-worst representation of women in parliament in the world.

Furthermore, due to the lack of domestic violence legislation, violence towards women in the Solomon Islands is a serious issue. As reported by the Family Health and Safety Study in 2009, among women aged 15 to 49 who had ever had a partner, 64 percent had experienced physical or sexual violence. About one-third of women reported being sexually abused before age 15, while around 10 percent of women reported physical violence during their pregnancy. Actual numbers could be even higher due to incomplete statistics.

Besides the 2012 ratified conventions and other regional commitments, U.N. Women in the Solomon Islands has been running a variety of programs to promote gender equality. These programs include Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific, Ending Violence Against Women, Increasing Community Resilience through Empowerment of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards, and Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands demands increased concern. While previous cultural barriers and the nature of work created restrictions to women’s empowerment in the Solomon Islands, global efforts and collaborative policy development will gradually relieve the inequality-related issues of this nation.

– Xin Gao                   

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in the Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a beautiful group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean where some of World War II’s most intense warfare took place. The nation’s official tourism site says “Step back in time, the islands remain unspoiled.” The Solomon Islands gained independence in 1978, two years after it began governing itself. Today, more than 600,000 people live in this parliamentary democracy. When it comes to the protection of human rights in the Solomon Islands, the nation is fairly successful. However, important failures do occur, such as violence and discrimination against women and unreasonably long pretrial detentions.

Women in the Solomon Islands have struggled to gain a role in the nation’s political discourse. While there are no laws explicitly forbidding women or minorities engagement in the political process, antiquated cultural norms have made it challenging for women to get involved. The nation’s parliament consists of 50 members, yet only one woman. The government wants to fix this and has passed laws aimed to increase the number of women in politics, but so far nothing has been successful.

Violence against women in the Solomon Islands is also quite prevalent. According to a 2011 World Health Organization report, more than 50 percent of women in the Solomon Islands experienced sexual violence by a partner at some point in their life. Incidents like these are often underreported due to women having a number of concerns, such as fear of backlash and concern over breaking a cultural norm.

An inability to swiftly move detainees through the criminal justice system is another failure on the part of the government to protect human rights in the Solomon Islands. In fact, about half of the nation’s prisoner population is made up of pretrial detainees. The U.S. Department of State’s 2016 report on human rights in the Solomon Islands states that the average pretrial detention period lasts for about two years. The Solomon Islands needs to address this problem so that people are not effectively prisoners for an extended period of time before they have had a fair trial.

These are important failures, but it is also important to consider that the Solomon Islands has succeeded in many other ways. Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, free speech is well-protected and the most recent election was generally free and fair.

Recently, the Solomon Islands has even taken a step towards becoming a global leader in the fight against human rights violations.  The nation did so by condemning West Papua human rights abuses at the U.N. Human Rights Council.  Some of the human rights violations occurring in West Papua include arrest, torture and the killing of peaceful protestors.  The impact of the Solomon Island‘s statement remains to be seen, but no matter the result, it was a powerful action taken by the nation.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in the Solomon IslandsIn 1568, Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña became the first European to visit the 992-island archipelago known today as the Solomon Islands. He named the islands after the wealthy and wise biblical king of Israel, inspired, as legend goes, by a belief that their cerulean seas and white-sand shores guarded untold riches. That assumption was largely mistaken, as seen in the poverty rate in the Solomon Islands today.


Exploring the Poverty Rate in the Solomon Islands


Although modern tourism has added to the Islands’ economic portfolio, these profits are still few and far between and unevenly distributed. The vast majority of wealth is concentrated in the capital city, Honiara, in which 85 percent of the population is in the Islands’ highest wealth quintile.

According to the Asian Development Bank, in 2013, 12.7 percent of Solomon Islanders lived below the national poverty line. Nutrition-wise, they fared better: only 4.4 percent lived below the food poverty line. However, a mere 35.1 percent had access to electricity.

Technological developments and investment continue to play a vital role in reducing poverty in the Solomon Islands. In April 2017, the World Bank reported that the Green Climate Fund has approved $86 million toward the Tina River Hydropower Project, an effort to reduce reliance on imported fuel for electricity generation. This investment accompanies the $15 million provided by the International Renewable Energy Agency/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (IRENA/ADFD).

The Solomon Islands’ electricity retail tariffs are currently among the highest in the world, at $0.65 per kilowatt-hour. Given that the Islands generate 97 percent of their electricity from diesel fuel and only 12 percent of homes are currently connected to grid power, this project stands to reduce the burden on working families and illuminate the islands like never before.

And, with electricity, the Islands should see an economic boost. The Asian Development Bank notes that tourism is a largely untapped market with great potential for development. Cheaper and more abundant energy is good for more than just powering residential areas: it can also lay groundwork for the sort of 24-hour “City of Light” that modern tourism creates and feeds on. With a stronger, cheaper energy grid in place, private investment will follow.

New technology and investments like these, guided by sound and prescient public policy, will be crucial to reducing the poverty rate in the Solomon Islands and materializing those mythical riches dreamed of since the days of de Mendaña.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr