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