Better Disaster Preparedness: Humanitarian Aid to the Solomon Islands
Consisting 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