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

Hunger in the Solomon Islands
Hunger in the Solomon Islands is prevalent despite the abundance of food resources available to the population. Conditions are ideal for agriculture and fisheries are high producing, yet 32.8 percent of children under the age of five have stunted growth and 8.5 percent have severely low heights for their age. There is little evidence of wasting, which is the phenomenon where children have low weights for their heights, meaning that most children do get their required daily energy intake.

The prevalence of stunting, however, shows that most residents of the Solomon Islands suffer from “hidden hunger,” meaning they have enough food intake but are deficient in important vitamins and minerals. This reduces growth and restricts development while leaving them vulnerable to disease and infection. Alongside the prevalence of stunted children, there is a large trend of obesity in adults in the Solomon Islands. This creates a double burden of disease with both often appearing in the same household.

People in urban areas are disproportionately disadvantaged and limited because they don’t have access to land to grow their own food and so must rely on overpriced foods in urban areas. Fresh fish and even canned tuna is too expensive for many to buy, and the cheapest foods like rice and noodles present dangerous nutritional problems for residents of the Solomon Islands. There are high rates of anemia and diarrhea that result from this type of improper nutrition. People living in rural areas also have the opportunity to trade their produce for healthier foods, an opportunity that city dwellers do not have.

In an effort to increase food security and decrease hunger in the Solomon Islands, several agricultural projects have been established to support existing infrastructure. In the fishing sector, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency project, funded by the European Union, is attempting to promote local businesses and employment in the Solomon Islands by controlling illegal fishing and developing existing fisheries with technical assistance and changes to local fishing policies.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is trying to develop new ways to produce rice locally in the Solomon Islands, as previous attempts at localized growing failed because of low crop yield, poor taste and high rates of insect infestation. The Ministry is working on implementing new rice production systems to overcome these preliminary issues and have already had success with seed planting.

The Nut Growers’ Association of the Solomon Islands is a national non-governmental organization that is trying to assist the production of indigenous fruits and nuts to increase the food variety available to local populations and increase trade.

Hopefully these new programs will hit their marks and do more to decrease “hidden hunger” and improve the nutritional wellbeing of inhabitants of the Solomon Islands.

Saru Duckworth

Photo: Flickr

Water and Sanitation in the Solomon IslandsNearly 70 percent of the population of the Solomon Islands lacks access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities. This archipelago comprises almost a thousand islands in the South Pacific Ocean and only has a population of 583,600.

There are disparities in access to water and sanitation in the Solomon Islands between urban and rural areas. Rural areas house 80 percent of the population (480,000), and there is a relative lack of water and sanitation services. In fact, nearly 70 percent of the population does not have access to appropriate sanitation services.

However, a study from 2007 concluded that 97 percent of urban areas compared to 65 percent of rural areas had access to clean water supply. A similar, but much greater disparity is present in access to sanitation facilities. In 2007, 98 percent of urban areas and 18 percent of rural areas had access to sanitation facilities.

The quality of the Solomon Islands’ urban water did not achieve The World Health Organization’s drinking water standards in 2007. Drinking water with unsafe levels of contamination has adverse effects on health and can cause diarrhea and other water-borne diseases. In 2002, diarrheal diseases accounted for seven percent of mortalities in the Solomon Islands.

In 2015, 93 percent of urban areas and 77 percent of rural areas gained access to improved water sources. This data indicates that the disparity in access to water between urban and rural areas has narrowed. Access to improved, private sanitation facilities in urban areas (72 percent) was disproportionately greater than access in rural areas (8 percent) in 2015.

Without sanitation facilities or access to working toilets or latrines, people’s only option is open defecation. Open defecation and the absence of washing facilities are associated with poor hygiene and an increased risk for skin and eye infections as well as mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria and dengue fever. A lack of private sanitation facilities is also linked to higher incidences of physical and sexual violence. When people—especially women—go outside to bathe and defecate, their vulnerability to violence increases.

A government initiative to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in the Solomon Islands is included in the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2020. If the Red Cross Society Strategic Plan’s target of helping 200,000 people with water, hygiene and sanitation is reached, the results could improve health outcomes and the lives of people in the Solomon Islands.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

Education in the Solomon Islands is difficult to access for youth, creating a huge hurdle for the island nation. As a country made up of more than 300 inhabited islands, the challenge of attending school across the islands means around 20 percent of children are out of school. Uneven population distribution makes providing educational services difficult at best, and in the 2003 conflict, many schools were burnt down and teachers and students fled the violence.

As the number of out-of-school young people has increased, the Solomon Islands has seen a parallel increase in political violence as youth have found an outlet for their frustration in riots, crime and violence. A 2005 study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that under-18 youth were being recruited by armed groups. This prompted the creation of a peace education module, a community-based model bringing together educators, young people, community leaders and NGO’s. The program’s purpose is to foster understanding of peace, conflict and good governance. To address the tension and positively re-engage youth, the government and NGOs have increased their focus on education in the Solomon Islands as an impactful way to promote peace measures.

To address the tension and positively re-engage youth, the government and NGOs have increased their focus on education in the Solomon Islands as an impactful way to promote peace measures.

The content of the educational curriculum is being thoughtfully reconsidered, as it is cited as a potential causal factor in the Islands’ conflicts. A perceived divide between traditional customs and skills and colonial Western-style curricula has encouraged educators to innovate, implementing the use of native languages in schools and diversifying teaching materials on history, religion and culture.

In order for the peace modules and curriculum innovations to succeed, school enrollment and completion rates must improve. As of 2012, Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) statistics show a high enrollment of both young boys and girls in primary school, with a net enrollment rate of 81 percent and a primary completion rate of 85 percent. However, only 72 percent of students were continuing their education in the Solomon Islands and enrolling in lower secondary school.

Since then, the hard work of local actors such as the Solomon Islands’ Curricular Development Division, church organizations and local women’s groups has demonstrated great commitment to making school more accessible. Partnerships with organizations including UNICEF, the New Zealand Agency for International Development and Save the Children have supported these efforts, and these powerful collaborations are rebuilding and innovating current educational structures.

In fact, based off of 2000-2010 education trends in the Solomon Islands, the Education Policy and Data Center predicts a 100 percent enrollment rate for primary and lower secondary students by the year 2025. By engaging every young person, education in the Solomon Islands will hopefully reduce conflict and promote peace. As long as aid funding and the government’s commitment to education continues, delivering culturally relevant, quality education can be a reality for the Solomon Islands in a few years.

Irena Huang

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Solomon Islands poverty rateThe Solomon Islands is an archipelago of 992 tropical islands residing between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. The country has a population of 555,000 predominantly Melanesian citizens. Poverty in the Solomon Islands is a prevailing issue.

Factors Exacerbating Poverty in the Solomon Islands

UNICEF reports that this country is one of the poorest pacific islands as it is still recovering from recent civil conflict. In addition, the islands are consistently victims of natural disaster; they experienced five tropical cyclones, two volcanic eruptions and one tsunami in 2010 alone.

The Solomon Islands are located in a “ring of fire” or a zone of active volcanoes that also comprises 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes. The earthquake in January 2010 registered at a 7.2 magnitude. It left one-third of the population on the island of Rendova without a home, The Guardian reports.

Due to the abundance of devastating natural disaster, the infrastructure of the country is also under great pressure as those facing poverty move to urban areas. Caritas Australia reports that less than only one of every three islanders had access to sufficient sanitation facilities in 2012.

Natural disasters, political unrest and movement of displaced people have made poverty in the Solomon Islands a serious issue. The Asian Development Bank reports that 22.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Evidence of this can be seen as medical issues are often not tended to at a proper time. Lack of connectivity between the islands makes it difficult for doctors and medical professionals to reach certain islands regularly and especially in emergency situations.

Members of UNICEF experienced this first hand as they traveled to the Vella la Vella island by way of a forty-minute boat ride, wading through water to reach land and walking along a gravel road to the islands’ only medical facility.

UNICEF worked with the staff to train and equip them through improved immunization services, prenatal and delivery care and programs designed to prevent HIV.

The organization has implemented a number of other programs in the islands such as aiding hospitals in reconstruction after damage due to the tsunami, along with expanded birth registration and counseling. UNICEF’s ultimate goal is to set-up opportunities that will enable medical facilities of the Solomon Islands to run efficiently on their own.

“It is very important that both UNICEF and other international donors when providing assistance… ensure that the assistance given lays the foundation for sustainable change in the communities that we aim to help,” said Andrei Dapkiunas, a permanent United Nations Representative and UNICEF partner.

UNICEF is not the only organization providing hope for the country. Caritas Australia, whose goal is to “end poverty, promote justice, uphold dignity” supports programs in the islands that teach social justice in schools. Over 5,000 children have been introduced to themes of equality, leadership, peacebuilding and environmental stewardship.

In light of the physical dangers the islanders face, the organization has provided teachers with curriculum instructing children how to prepare for natural disasters through nursery rhymes and games.

This country faces greater challenges than most due to its location on the globe, but the future is not without hope for these resilient people. Through programs and organizations working to build sustainable change, it is possible to combat poverty in the Solomon Islands.

Rebecca Causey

Photo: Flickr