Hunger in Tuvalu
Tuvalu is a country made up of nine islands in the West Pacific Ocean. Because Tuvalu is a former British colony, many of its citizens speak English, even though the native language is Tuvaluan and the native people are Polynesian. One-third of the population lives in Funafuti, the main island that is also the most urban. The rest of the population lives a more traditional lifestyle with extended families. Hunger in Tuvalu has been a problem, a direct result of people lacking sufficient money or land to provide for their needs. Here are 5 facts about food and hunger in Tuvalu.

5 Facts About Food and Hunger in Tuvalu

  1. History: For most of Tuvalu’s history, a majority of the population was subsistence farmers, living off of what they grew. Hunger in Tuvalu was a part of life, but there was little famine. Usually, a family could grow enough food to support themselves, and they supplemented their diets with fish caught in the ocean.
  2. Importing Food: As Tuvalu’s connection to the rest of the world has increased, it has begun to import more and more food. Now, 80% of food is imported, mostly from the nearby countries of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Fiji. Importing food is changing hunger in Tuvalu.
  3. Farming and Fishing: Hunger has decreased due to imported food, but Tuvaluans still face challenges with food security. Before Tuvalu began importing most of its food, local farms and fishing provided food security, but now most fish caught is exported. Even so, many rely on their land or fishing to earn money, as a majority of Tuvaluans make their livings as farmers or fishermen. Climate change is also a major threat to food security because changing ecosystems can hurt people’s food supply. As coral in the ocean dies, fish — a crucial food supply — die as well. Additionally, seawater is slowly becoming acidic, making it an increasingly inhabitable environment for sea life. Both factors reduce the number of fish people can export, which is how many Tuvaluans earn their salaries.
  4. Population Growth: A high population growth rate also poses a challenge to food security, threatening to increase hunger in Tuvalu. The yearly population growth rate is 0.87%, and while it is only ranked No. 152 in the world, the land cannot support the current rate of population growth. This increases the possibility of hunger, as many, especially on the smaller islands, completely rely on farming or fishing for their salaries.
  5. Other Health Concerns: Despite circumstances threatening food security, hunger in Tuvalu is not the country’s primary food-related problem. Imported foods, highly composed of fat and sugar to reduce spoilage, have increased obesity on the islands. The country ranks fifth in obesity, with an obesity rate of 51.6%. Now, even though processed food has virtually ended the issue of hunger in Tuvalu, it has created another health concern: obesity.

By importing food, Tuvalu has solved many of its issues surrounding hunger. Even though the country still faces challenges surrounding food security and obesity, the issue of hunger in Tuvalu has become much less prevalent since the country increased connections with the rest of the world.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in Tuvalu
Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, yet millions of people remain undiagnosed. TB diagnosis is a challenge for many island communities. In order to be diagnosed, patients usually have to go to the main island. This was the case for tuberculosis in Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is a remote Pacific island with a population of 11,500 and only one hospital. Travel to the hospital is difficult and increases the risk of transmission, especially when it includes a crowded boat full of people. TB rates are high in Tuvalu but are declining with only about 15 new cases each year since 2016 – a great improvement from the rate of 36 new cases each year in the 1980s. The death rate in 2017 was 19 per 100,000 people. Thanks to a couple of developments that have made diagnosis more achievable – namely GeneXpert machine, portable x-ray machines and training for health teams – Tuvalu is actively reducing rates of TB since 2018.

GeneXpert Machine

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have provided a GeneXpert machine to the government of Tuvalu. This machine reduces the duration of the TB test and allows for diagnosis of the drug-resistant strains, which are increasingly becoming a problem. Using the machine, the test only takes about two hours. Without this technology, the TB test takes at least two-six weeks.

It is a relatively new test that works on a molecular level to identify mycobacterium tuberculosis as well as rifampin resistance in a sputum sample. Another positive is that limited technical training is required to run the GeneXpert tests. These tests are being used around the world and prove to be an incredible feat of science.

Portable X-ray Machines

Because x-ray machines are now portable, more people can be reached and examined, including those on the outer islands. Mobile health teams travel to smaller islands and carry out chest x-rays for those presenting TB symptoms.

Thanks to portable x-ray technology, the number of TB diagnoses is increasing. Dr. Lifuka at the Tuvalu hospital said, “We can now actively find cases in the outer islands where there are no facilities, and we can assess everyone, even those who previously faced difficulties coming to the hospital.”

Training for Health Teams

Of course, none of this would be possible with the technology alone. Trained professionals are needed to help diagnose and treat people with tuberculosis in Tuvalu. They travel to patients’ houses and provide medication. Because of the stigma surrounding TB, patients won’t always get their treatments. This is why Tuvalu Red Cross community-based health promoters and other trained professionals treat patients at home.

Though TB rates remain rather high in Tuvalu, as well as throughout the Pacific, the new technology implemented in 2018 is promising. Technology will not be enough, however; system-wide approaches aimed at reducing poverty and development of infrastructure on the outer islands will also be needed in order to eradicate TB. Furthermore, Tuvalu needs to continue to improve TB surveillance in order to inform public health agencies of the strategies proven to be most effective. Hopefully, the new technology will help spread awareness of TB to all the members of the community. The change is already evident, as cases of tuberculosis in Tuvalu have declined consistently over the past 10 years, and detection has increased. In 2008, they were only able to diagnose eight cases a year. In 2017, there were 23. The new technology and training programs will continue to save lives on this small, isolated island.

Fiona Price
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in TuvaluTuvalu, formerly known as Ellice Islands, is the fourth-smallest country in the world. The nation consists of nine islands and is home to approximately 11,508 people. In comparison to its size, the country is overpopulated which places a burden on the country’s resources. Despite this obstacle, the country is making massive strides to provide its citizens with accessible healthcare. Here are five facts about healthcare in Tuvalu.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Tuvalu

  1. Healthcare in Tuvalu is free and government-funded. Tuvaluans are provided with free primary and preventative care, medication and hospital stay. The Ministry of Health also assists citizens who need to be referred from the outer islands to the main island or overseas hospitals for advanced care. The country’s legislation prohibits the operation of private healthcare facilities and pharmacies.
  2. Tuvalu has one hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, which is located on the main island of Funafuti. The hospital provides basic primary care, dental and pharmaceutical services. There are two additional healthcare clinics on the main island and eight additional health centers that serve the outer islands. These facilities are staffed with nurses who offer primary and preventative care.
  3. Although the country has met the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended ratio of 2.5 health professionals per 1,000 citizens, it does not have enough specialized health professionals. Citizens who require advanced medical treatment are referred to overseas hospitals in New Zealand and Fiji to receive assistance.
  4. Tuvalu has made great strides to reduce neonatal mortality rates. Neonatal mortality rates fell from 21.7 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 15.7 in 2018. Although the Princess Margaret Hospital is the main center for childbirth, each island healthcare facility is staffed with a trained midwife. Nearly 100% of births take place in a hospital and are attended by a healthcare provider.
  5. Noncommunicable diseases are on the rise. Cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes contributed to 74% of mortalities among Tuvalu citizens in 2008. The country is also facing a “double burden” of undernutrition and obesity. A STEPwise Approach to Noncommunicable Disease Surveillance (STEPS) revealed in a 2015 survey an alarming rise in obesity among adults aged 18-69. Of note, 55.2% were males and 70.7% were female. This rise in obesity can be attributed to risky lifestyle choices such as poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco usage. A survey conducted by the WHO found that 37.3% of Tuvaluan children were stunted in 2017.

Solution

Tuvalu’s success in improving healthcare for its citizens should be celebrated. But there is still room for improvement. With the help of the WHO, Tuvalu’s Ministry of Health has developed a strategic plan to control the rise in NCDs and nutrition-related diseases among its citizens. The country is tackling these issues by educating Tuvaluans to make healthier choices, reducing inequality and poverty.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Literacy in TuvaluThe World Bank has awarded a grant to improve early childhood development and literacy in Tuvalu. The grant will help Tuvalu provide a better educational infrastructure for its citizens, while also preserving aspects of Tuvaluan culture. There are only 198 teachers on the island leading to a high ratio of pupils to teachers at 18:1. The scarcity of educators creates a disadvantage for students whose one-on-one time with teachers is crucial to their development.

Tuvalu’s Educational System

Tuvalu became independent from Britain in 1978; Tuvalu’s colonial past has greatly influenced the country’s modern society and culture. For instance, although both Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of Tuvalu, many schools only teach in English. The current system may cause the next generation to forget their native language. Consequently, some citizens worry the current educational system may lead to the disappearance of the Tuvaluan language altogether. 

The World Bank initiative will foster more teacher training and activities for children. Moreover, The Tuvalu Learning Project will aid communities in educating the population on the importance of health and physical activity in early childhood.

The Tuvalu Reading Program

The World Bank believes that early reading is critical to ensure a promising future and build a better society. This mission is addressed by the Tuvalu Reading Program, which teaches students to read in Tuvaluan. The curriculum introduces students to new reading material and relies on teacher-led lectures. The program exposes students to a robust curriculum and assesses them on what they have learned.

The Tuvalu Learning Project and Reading Program expand on existing initiatives, including the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), which was initiated in 2014. The Tuvalu Reading Project enhances PEARL by focusing on Tuvaluan children and preserving their native language. 

Helping the Tuvaluan Community

The World Bank will direct additional funds toward increasing community access to education overall. For example, schools located in outer-island regions will recieve funding to increase their internet connectivity. Better internet in these areas will increase students’ access to valuable educational tools and improve their communication with teachers. Furthermore, The Tuvalu Learning Project also hopes to add more school activities that benefit students through the availability of technology. 

The World Banks’ contribution of $14 million is estimated to benefit 10 thousand people on the island. New job opportunities from the program will extend to teachers, community leaders, and the department of education.  In Tuvalu, 26.3% of people live below the poverty line. For this reason, the expanded education sector can create more opportunities, increase literacy in Tuvalu, and eventually raise the country’s overall standard of living. 

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in TuvaluTuvalu (pronounced two-vah-loo) is a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. It is home to just around 11,500 people. They are the only ones in the world to speak their native language, and their way of life is very remote. The small island nation relies primarily on subsistence living. This completely redefines what poverty means in this setting. Tuvalu is considered the fourth most impoverished nation in the world, but it is important to look at this South Pacific island nation with a different perspective. If one measures poverty in terms of income level, then Tuvalu will be measured in a much bleaker light than what is appropriate.

Facts About Poverty in Tuvalu

  1. Not much data is available, considering the remoteness of the country. However, the Asian Development Bank reports a 2.5 percent under-5 mortality rate, and only 6.3 percent of the population had safely managed sanitation services in 2015.  
  2. Factors like overpopulation affect poverty in Tuvalu because they exacerbate food scarcity. Saltwater intrusion affects the soil in Tuvalu and kills crops in the process. Saltwater intrusion can be detrimental to the crops growing in the region. For example, pulaka is a native fruit that is a symbol of Tuvalu culture. As saltwater infiltrates the limited soil, the pulaka pits die. That is why many families have turned to imported rice instead.
  3. According to the Asian Development Bank, Tuvalu lacks many of the resources for sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Limited private business causes a huge reliance on the public sector. Considering the climate impact as well, storms are commonplace and can have a devastating effect on livelihood but also revenue and fiscal security.
  4. Tuvalu only has one hospital on the capital island, Funafuti. However, there are two more health clinics and eight health centers distributed across the islands. So far, they have not had any cases of COVID-19.

Food Scarcity in Tuvalu

Although the country is made up of just nine islands and numerous small islets, it has seen tremendous population growth. According to the Food and Agriculture Association, Tuvalu had 10,600 people as of 2017. In one year, this number increased by almost 1,000 people. More people means more mouths to feed.  Despite food scarcity, “everybody helps everybody,” according to John Goheen, director of the upcoming documentary, “We Are Tuvalu.” Goheen spoke to The Borgen Project in an interview. “Nobody goes hungry. It’s a country that’s very small, very close-knit.”

Tuvaluans spend just under $2 on food per day. Ironically, many in Tuvalu are overweight. The population eats about one-fourth of the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables per day. When it comes to food scarcity, it all comes down to what is easily accessible. Rice and sugary foods are imported and cheap to buy while vegetables are hard to grow and fish are getting scarce. 

Only recently has Tuvalu had to rely on imports. Before, they lived a subsistence lifestyle. Most families own pigs, many own chickens or roosters, but fish remains their main source of protein. However, fish surrounding the islands are becoming scarce. Imported rice makes up 34% of the food consumed, coconuts make up 19%, white sugar makes up 17%, and fish make up 7%. Unfortunately, rice and sugar are imported. 

A decline in Tuvalu’s Fishing Industry

It is getting harder and harder for Tuvalu’s fishermen to come home with a good catch, said Jake Pieczynski, executive producer of “We Are Tuvalu,” when speaking with The Borgen Project. “And that’s primarily caused by climate change, specifically, the warming of the ocean. As the temperatures rise, the reefs that surround Tuvalu die. Fish lose their homes; they migrate to other areas.” 

Another factor in coral reefs dying is waste from pigs. Pig sites are close to the shoreline, so feces washes into the ocean and kills off some of the coral by the coast. Of course, without coral, fish cannot breed. One solution the government has been putting in place is planting thick, dense grass imported from Fiji to shield much of the pig waste from washing into the water. 

Unemployment in Tuvalu

Tuvalu is a young nation. In 2017, youth between the ages of 15 to 35 made up 35% of the population, 39% of whom were unemployed. Culturally, the children are supposed to take care of their parents once they hit the proper age, which makes that statistic a bit more alarming. The retirement age in Tuvalu is 55. 

Pieczynski talked to the Minister for Labour during his time in Funafuti. He reported that the minister estimated probably more than half of the population was unemployed. However, Pieczynski also noted that he never observed anyone living on the streets; no one goes homeless. “You don’t really need to have everyone in your household working a full-time job in order to survive and live a good lifestyle in Tuvalu,” Pieczynski said. 

Improvements to Poverty in Tuvalu

There is so much being done to improve the livelihoods of the people in Tuvalu. Now that Tuvalu is joining the global economy and relies on imported goods, money is much more of a commodity than it once was. Tuvalu uses the Australian dollar. Many people take advantage of overseas jobs in order to send money back to their families in Tuvalu.

To address food scarcity, many non-government organizations (NGOs) travel to Tuvalu to re-educate Tuvaluans and help them adapt to changing climate conditions. For example, the agricultural center of the capital uses raised garden beds, so that saltwater will not disrupt the crops. Climate-resilient crops are a must as well, according to Goheen. A breadfruit tree can weather a storm much better than pulaka. One such organization is Live and Learn Environmental Education. Its “Tuvalu Food Futures” program aims to increase local food consumption and decrease reliance on imported goods.

While poverty in Tuvalu may not seem as big of a threat as local food scarcity, it is still relevant. Many live without making much money and rely instead on their families. Luckily, there seems to be a strong sense of community on the islands. Hopefully, with the help of NGOs, food scarcity can be alleviated through more sustainable agriculture.

Annie Kate Raglow
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Tuvalu

On the remote Pacific Island country of Tuvalu, the expectations for men and women are distinct. Women are expected to adopt a subordinate role, are usually less involved in politics and are not provided the same legal protections as men especially in regards to child custody or inheritance. If they work in the formal economy, they are generally expected to be teachers and nurses. Yet, Tuvalu has one of the highest gender development ratios in the Pacific Island region. At least in part, this favorable ranking is the result of the state of girls’ education in Tuvalu.

Education in Tuvalu

According to the Education for All 2000 Assessment, Tuvalu has had a longstanding commitment to universal access to basic education. The government has explicitly cited that a child cannot be denied an education based on their sex. However, proximity to the school and academic achievement continue to be the biggest barriers in secondary education.

Though pre-primary and primary schools are numerous, secondary schools are much more difficult to access. There are 18 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) centers and 10 primary schools. Each of the 9 main islands has its own government primary school and there is an additional faith-based private school located in the capital, Funafuti.

In contrast, there are only two secondary schools. Therefore, in order to attend secondary school, the student must relocate to the island on which the school resides. There is a public boarding school located on the island of Vaitupu, and a faith-based private school located in Funafuti.

These schools do not discriminate between sex, but the student’s admittance into these schools is dependent upon the student’s performance on the National Year Eight Examination (NYEE). If the student is successful, then the student proceeds to an additional four years of schooling, two of which would be compulsory. If the student is not successful, then they have several options: (1) repeat year eight, (2) enroll in vocational training or (3) illegally drop-out of school.  

Girls’ Education in Tuvalu

While girls’ education in Tuvalu is provided throughout pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, girls are not allowed access to vocational training.  Vocational training in Tuvalu consists of The Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute (TMTI) as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses. These programs provide training for vocations that are reserved for men in Tuvaluan society such as farming, fishing, carpentry and welding.

Perhaps because women are unable to pursue the vocational training alternatives, girls are actually more likely to progress to secondary school than their male counterparts. Prior to secondary school, in pre-primary and primary schooling, females account for a little under half of the student population.

This is reflective of the nations demographic of which females make up a little under half of the nation’s population. However, according to the 2015 National Educational Review report, females consistently make up nearly two-thirds of the student population enrolled in secondary school.  

Girls generally outperform their male counterparts throughout their educational careers. In 2013, 64.2 percent of girls who sat for the NYEE passed the exam. Only 58.6 percent of boys passed the exam that same year. As a result, 12 boys dropped out of school that year. Only one female dropped out.

Of the roughly 35 percent of females that did not pass the exam that year, 33 percent re-enrolled in year eight. Of the 41 percent of males that failed, only 29 percent re-enrolled. This is likely due to the fact that boys have vocational alternatives that do not require passage of the NYEE.

Following secondary school, both genders have access to tertiary education. Both The University of South Pacific and Fiji National University have campuses in Tuvalu, and more programs can be explored in Australia and New Zealand.

A Positive Future For Women in Tuvalu

Tuvalu’s current strategy to address gender inequality in the country is outlined in a document called Te Kakeega III. The country intends to amend gender-biased laws by the year 2020. Furthermore, the country is actively promoting women’s political involvement. As a result, more women now hold positions in the health and education sectors as well as some top positions in several non-government organizations.

And they are not alone, other groups, like Pacific Women, are working to change the way that women are seen in society to bring about gender equality. Their three-year plan will invest 1.8 million while working with the Department of Gender Affairs to give a voice to the women of Tuvalu.

Girls’ education in Tuvalu already provides the foundation for combatting pre-existing inequality. The next step is addressing Tuvaluan societal expectations. With the help of groups like these and government support, Tuvalu has a great chance of being a positive example not only for girls’ education in Tuvalu but also for a gender-equal society.

Joanna Dooley

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Tuvalu

Sustainable agriculture in Tuvalu, a small island developing state (SIDS), requires a cooperative network of individuals that understand and manage an unsure climate and disaster risk. Tuvalu consists of nine islands with its highest point being only a few meters above sea level. This makes for an unfriendly climate and physical environment as well as poor land resources and soil.

Agricultural Challenges

Due to the harsh variation in the climate, Tuvalu faces major setbacks in agricultural development.  This forces the government to rely heavily on imported food, rather than locally produced food, to feed the country. According to the USAID Demographic Health Survey, the lack of sustainable agriculture in Tuvalu in 2007 caused a reported 61.2 percent of children under five years old to become anemic because of insufficient nutrients found in vegetables. This resulted in further issues as inflation hiked to 12 percent in 2008 instilling a reliance on imported food that has threatened the health of the country’s children.

Most of the crops grown in the villages are kept for individual sustenance (the taro, breadfruit, pandanus, pumpkin, etc.) with production being limited and often damaged by animals. Coconut trees remain the country’s largest crop and export, despite the high prices and restricted amount of exports by the government.

Sustainable Solutions

To create a reliable food source, the government turned its focus to home gardening, teaching Tuvalu’s women and children how to produce nutritious foods in their backyards to promote health. According to the 2005-2015 Tuvalu National Strategy for Sustainable Development, there is hope for revamping the country’s agricultural practices that have declined or been forgotten due to increasing urbanization, specifically on the local level within the villages.

Sustainable agriculture in Tuvalu centers on creating a reliable food source that can survive the country’s harsh climate and soil conditions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) partnered with Tuvalu in 2003 to develop an environmentally secure source of food production. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees supplied a banana plant that can resist the climate, the black sigatoka disease along with 20 other diseases that are common among plant crops.

Local farmers have been supplied with these disease-resistant plantlets for crops that could support local and household consumption. Workshops and field demonstrations provided by the FAO to farmers and extension officers have helped boost the success of these crops significantly. They demonstrated two cultivation systems appropriate for the successful production of these crops in Tuvalu’s environment.

The FAO provided further workshops to teach farmers how to protect plants against invasive pests and harmful plant species. Educating farmers on these matters is key to creating sustainable agriculture in Tuvalu. Through continued education and working directly with local farmers, Tuvalu’s economy and agriculture will improve.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Tuvalu

Tuvalu is an independent island country consisting of nine islands in the South Pacific. As one of the smallest countries in the world, Tuvalu’s economy is constrained. This is also affected by the country’s remoteness.

Despite Tuvalu remaining fiscally resilient, the poverty rate is still high. The small economy does not allow room to grow and the country has few exports, meaning that Tuvalu relies almost entirely on foreign aid. As of 2015, about 89.2 percent of the Growth National Income (GNI) was in foreign humanitarian aid to Tuvalu.

Tuvalu’s primary donor and partner in humanitarian aid is New Zealand. Official visits between Tuvalu and New Zealand began in 2010 and New Zealand created an official partnership in 2015 in order to bring humanitarian aid to Tuvalu. However, New Zealand has been helping fund Tuvalu since the 1980s. In 1987, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom created the Tuvalu Trust Fund, an international fund dedicated to benefitting Tuvalu. The goal of the fund is to help Tuvalu reach financial autonomy.

New Zealand has continued to support and send humanitarian aid to Tuvalu, especially after Tuvalu joined the United Nations in 2000. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade introduced and started implementing the New Zealand Aid Programme 2015-2019 in Tuvalu in early 2015. The program’s goal is to increase economic growth and create a sustainable economy, reduce poverty and increase Tuvalu’s resilience to natural disasters. Through the implementation of this program, New Zealand and Tuvalu have signed a Joint Commitment for Development.

The majority of the program’s funding goes toward activities and initiatives in Tuvalu. As of 2017, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has spent $9 million in humanitarian aid to Tuvalu. Though the program is still new, improvements in Tuvalu have already begun. The Tuvalu Trust Fund has successfully adopted a new investment strategy which has resulted in economic growth. This has strengthened economic governance, returning just under $9 million to the government.

Furthermore, Tuvalu has seen a strengthening of resilience against natural disasters, specifically in Tuvalu’s capital Funafuti. The program has also funded the fixing of the Tagako Breach, a thin strip of land on the island of Funafuti. This has improved Tuvalu’s stability during cyclones and storms.

Though New Zealand has already helped create some stability and relief in Tuvalu, it is still working to make a more sustainable and prosperous economy in the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through the New Zealand Aid Program, offers scholarships to Tuvaluan scholars. The applications open in early 2018 and studying will begin in early 2019. The goal of these scholarships is to help young Tuvaluans get an education they can use to improve the development of their country.

New Zealand will also fund and implement the Tuvalu Borrow Pits Rehabilitation Project in 2018. Based mainly in Funafuti, the aim of the project is to improve the living standards, sanitation services and access to clean water. The project will fill up 10 borrow pits on the Funafuti Atoll. The project has already been approved.

The humanitarian aid to Tuvalu from New Zealand seems small but has already started making a difference. New Zealand has laid the groundwork for Tuvalu to continue to improve for years to come.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

Education in TuvaluThe South Pacific nation of Tuvalu is comprised of only 11,000 citizens. Tuvalu’s small population and its remote location require a specialized economy. Tuvaluan citizens work in tourism, agriculture, an increasingly respected internet domain and a prevalent maritime industry. However, education in Tuvalu is seeing a rising failure rate compared to Australia and other neighboring countries.

Primary Education

Tuvaluan children attend primary school starting at age seven. Nearly a sixth of Tuvalu attends one of the 11 primary schools across the small country. Despite the high percentage of Tuvaluans in primary school, there is a relatively small teacher-to-student ratio — nearly 1:18 — and the country enjoys a 99 percent literacy rate.

Education in Tuvalu is compulsory for seven years and is free for its students. The accessibility of primary education is an incredible advantage for its citizens and paves the way for further education.

Secondary Education

While not compulsory, Tuvalu offers a strong secondary education system. Secondary schools such as the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute strive to integrate Tuvaluans into their seafaring industry. For students who don’t excel academically, Tuvalu has created vocational schools that help train students with technical skills for other jobs throughout the country.

On the far end of the spectrum, Tuvalu provides Community Training Centres for students who are unable to pass entry exams for secondary schools. Education in Tuvalu, therefore, allows training for every citizen. Despite this, failure rates are rising, putting a strain on the national economy.

Increasing Failure Rates

While the population has grown in Tuvalu, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased. Since 2012, Tuvalu’s GDP has shrunk from an all-time high of nearly $40 million by nine percent. This may be explained, in part, by the increasing failure rates in Tuvaluan schools. In recent years, 40 percent of students applying for secondary education have failed their entrance examinations.

This discrepancy makes it clear that while students are required to go to primary school, a large portion of students are not taking advantage of the accessibility of secondary education in Tuvalu. Options at that point are scant; failing students are either pushed out of the educational system or must retake higher levels of primary school in order to achieve the required results. 

What Can be Done

Education in Tuvalu allows for easily accessible training. However, the increasing failure rates from primary schools are mirrored by a decreasing GDP. Educators are being brought in from neighboring countries, and Tuvaluans are experiencing the consequences of a decreasing economy.

Due to Tuvalu’s small population and specialized economy, options are limited for the 40 percent of failing students. Tuvalu would benefit from legislation and organizations that strive to raise pass rates among its students. It is vital that the country’s pass rates and GDP rise along with an increasing population.  

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

Tuvalu Poverty RateConsisting of nine small islands in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is known for its social programs and fiscal resilience. However, the Tuvalu poverty rate remains a large impediment to the nation’s development.

Being one of the smallest countries in the world, the country remains in isolation and depends significantly on imports such as food and fuel. With poor natural resource endowments other than fisheries, the Tuvalu poverty rate can be attributed to the minuscule opportunities for monetary gain and the dependence on the outside world.

The most recent record of the poverty rate in Tuvalu was in 2010, placing 26.3 percent of the country’s population below the poverty line. While poverty has declined in the country since the mid-1990s, the lack of local employment opportunities has manifested in high levels of unemployment, which increases the burden of low earnings.

In addition to low employment rates, climate change has also had a significant effect on the people living on Tuvalu’s islands. A recent study found that a significant proportion of individuals living on the islands suffered monetary losses due to natural disasters. Cyclone Pam, the natural disaster that swept over the island in 2015, proved this, as 45 percent of the nation’s population was displaced due to the storm’s effects.

With the highest point of the Tuvalu islands only reaching 4.6 meters above sea level, the country is vulnerable to and significantly impacted by the increased magnitude and frequency of natural disasters. With the poor investing their earnings in their homes, durable goods and furnishings, they are that much more threatened by storm surges and the floods associated with them.

Therefore, while the poverty rate has been decreasing in recent years across the Tuvalu islands, climate change negatively threatens the future livelihoods of the native population and further deepens the levels of poverty.

With the increasing threat from the waves surrounding the islands, more needs to be done to reduce the chance of future impacts. Aso Ioapa, a citizen from Tuvalu, noted that “We have to face that we might have to go to another place. That is hard. But migration is the last option. We want to save our countries.”

Tuvalu citizens will continue to do just that; save the country they love. The ADB country operations business plan emphasizes this. The 2017-2019 plan aims to improve fiscal management, communication services, and island port facilities while also building disaster resilience for Tuvalu.

If the country continues to improve its employment opportunities and address the climate change issues, the Tuvalu poverty rate will continue to reduce over time.

Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Flickr