Hunger In The Cook Islands
A Brief History

The Cook Islands are made up of a combination of 15 different islands, reside in the South Pacific ocean and have a population of 15,000 people who practice their unique language and diverse culture — a habit that many tourists enjoy. The country has over 100,000 visitors each year which significantly contributes to the country’s economy. Tourism paired with the abundant natural resources in the region has led to the decrease in hunger in The Cook Islands.

Hunger In The Cook Islands

Although hunger in The Cook Islands is not as widespread as in other developing nations and many citizens have access to their daily caloric needs, malnutrition is still a huge issue for the citizens of this country. Financial hardship due to a lack of education for many people in The Cook Islands has led to residents making food choices which often leads to malnutrition.

The cheapest foods in The Cook Islands are often the foods which can get caught in the wild or bought at a local market using little income. Fish acts as a staple food product due to its abundance in the South Pacific oceans.

A 2007 United Nations study states that The Cook Islands possess 133 commercial fisheries, 3,939 offshore fisheries and 5 freshwater fisheries. These practices have led to an abundance of fish in the country.

The issue, though, is that since fish are often the only food residents of The Cook Islands can purchase, they suffer from malnutrition that stems from a lack of micronutrients. Although fish can act as an excellent source of protein and omega three fatty acids, the human diet requires numerous other micronutrients to function properly. These micronutrients include Vitamins A, B6, B12, C and many others.

Although fish can provide the calories needed to sustain a human, it cannot provide the micronutrients required for optimal bodily conditions.

The Takeaway

Hunger in The Cook Islands does not appear to be an issue and for many living in this country, this perception is correct. The abundance of fish in The Cook Islands can provide the needed micronutrients required for humans daily caloric intake. The issue with relying solely on fish for one’s caloric needs is that fish cannot provide all the essential vitamins and minerals required for a human.

Hunger in The Cook Islands may not be as much of an issue, but malnutrition stemming from a lack of vitamins and minerals is. Organizations such as the United Nations conduct studies on what the people of The Cook Islands eat to allow people to understand that even though they are eating, they continue to suffer from preventable diseases caused by malnutrition. This information is imperative to solving the issue of malnutrition in The Cook Islands.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Considering that it gained sovereignty 23 years ago, there is much work to be done regarding education in Palau. The Republic of Palau, which proclaimed independence from the United States in 1994 (after becoming a post-World War II trust territory), is comprised of 16 states. It lies 722 nautical miles east of Guam in the Pacific and consists of more than 200 islands spread out over 177 miles.

Teacher training greatly impacts education in Palau. In 2013, the Ministry of Education in Palau directed all teachers to take a practice teacher certification test from the Educational Testing Service called the Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST). The test contributes to one of the initiatives in the Master Plan for Educational Improvement for 2006–16 established by the Ministry.

The test measured skills in reading, writing and mathematics to determine whether the teachers were qualified to teach. The results were unsatisfactory. The average scores were 29 percent in math, 43 percent in reading and 35 percent in writing. Only 62 percent of the teachers reported having earned a postsecondary degree, and teachers with seven or more years of experience scored lower than their peers. Not only did teachers with less experience score better, but they also reported higher English proficiency, levels of education and tended to teach upper elementary or high school students.

In 2015, 60 percent of elementary teachers claimed high school as their highest level of education. Compare that with Palauan high school teachers: 36 percent earned an associate’s degree and 50 percent earned a bachelor’s degree. While these figures are low, the 2015 figures are higher than those from 2014.

Despite these shortcomings, Palauan census records reveal astonishing improvements in student retention and college education. In 2015, not quite 21 percent of those 25 or older went beyond a high school education. By the time of this report, the percentage of those who attended one to three years of college had also greatly increased, to nearly 64 percent for those 25 or older. This means that college education in Palauan teachers has risen by 45 percent since the year 2000.

While there is much progress left to be made in the arena of Palauan education, it appears to be on the right track, particularly as the country has made its development a priority. Its last plan was not incredibly successful, but it now has a place from which to build. If Palau continues to utilize the PPST, develops additional training for teachers and accepts some of the more highly-educated citizens into its ranks, it is possible for Palau to continue to drastically improve its educational system.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

How does a small, remote island with no indigenous population have poverty? Well, it doesn’t. Poverty in Wake Island is nonexistent. It is a small, remote atoll that serves as a U.S. military base and scientific research center. This inaccessible island operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Air Force. Discovered by the Spanish in 1568, the island was eventually named after British Captain William Wake, who visited the island in 1796.

In 1898, the island was annexed by the U.S., who would utilize its strategic position as a commercial air station in route to Asia. Wake Island was later seized by the Japanese in 1941, leading U.S. forces to bomb the island until Japan’s surrender in 1945.

In later years, the island became a refueling site for military and commercial aircraft traveling through the Pacific. Since 1974, the island has been used by the U.S. military and serves fundamentally for emergency landings. The U.S. Air Force has fully renovated the island’s airfield and facilities, thus maintaining its strategic passageway in the Pacific region.

Approximately 150 military personnel and civilian contractors live on the island to maintain and operate the airfield and facilities, serving as the island’s only population. This tropical island extends 6.5 square kilometers, providing a strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean. As an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the U.S., all activities on the island are conducted by the U.S. Air Force.

Wake Island’s economic activity is regulated by the U.S., who provides the necessary services to military personnel and contractors living on the atoll. Importing food and manufactured goods eliminates the possibility of poverty in Wake Island.

Located about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and 600 miles north of the Marshall Islands, Wake Island has served as an ideal location for this U.S. defensive base. With the financial and economic support from the U.S., it has guaranteed a lack of poverty in Wake Island. These attributes have demonstrated the island’s importance for the U.S. Air Force and Pacific travel for military personnel.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu is an island nation located north of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 83 separate islands and six distinct provinces. Because Vanuatu was occupied by several European nations during its colonial period, it has retained three national languages: English, French and Bislama. Bislama is described as a form of Pidgin English that formed naturally from contact with the French and English; it has become a native language to the islands and is still practiced widely. Even with all the culture from many nations still within the country, education in Vanuatu is unremarkable.

Education in Vanuatu is only compulsory for the first six years of primary education. While the Ministry of Education offers four years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, after the first six years many students leave their education behind without learning useful skills to benefit their future lives. Some remote tribal areas do not benefit from an education at all.

According to the Nations Encyclopedia, in 1999, 96 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school. Although a seemingly promising number, by the end of that same year, only 23 percent of those same students were eligible to attend a secondary school.

The citizens of Vanuatu could be capable of fluency in three languages within their homes and yet the literacy rate is very low, at 64 percent. In an effort to combat this, the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP) or also commonly known as the Book Flood Project, was formed.

The VANLEP program “endeavors to promote and enhance current efforts in upgrading education in [Vanuatu] and… in increasing literacy levels among children living in rural areas.” The program is making efforts to achieve these goals by stimulating learning environments by providing schools with books for children of all ages — known as a book flood. The program also helps to train parents and teachers to be the best they can be in order to help the children learn. The program aims to update the school curriculum and create partnerships with communities and schools to best benefit the children via a communal learning mentality.

Education in Vanuatu has its struggles, but it is making an effort to enlighten and encourage its students to reach their fullest potential. As the literacy rates increase, the entire country will benefit from a full and focused education.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

 Diseases in the Bahamas
The top diseases in the Bahamas are hypertensive disease, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. These diseases account for the high mortality rates in the country and affect the overall health of Bahamians.

  1. Hypertension was the leading cause of death for Bahamians in 2011 resulting in 215 deaths, which is a decrease in the number of deaths from 2008, which stood at 993. Hypertension preventative measures have been implemented in the Bahamas and a national campaign was launched in 2013 promoting good habits for controlling blood pressure.
  2. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary heart disease, has been considered one of the top diseases in the Bahamas and resulted in 180 deaths in 2011. The country’s department of statistics has reported that more than 24 percent of all deaths in the Bahamas are directly related to heart disease.

  3. Cerebrovascular diseases accounted for 130 deaths and have been another of the top diseases in the Bahamas, especially among women. Cerebrovascular diseases are considered more life-threatening, even though hypertensive diseases are the number one cause of death.

  4. HIV/AIDS has been prevalent in the Bahamas and ranks fifth on the list of top diseases in the Bahamas with a mortality of 121 deaths, according to a 2011 report by the Bahamas government. This is considered an epidemic, and there is currently no cure. The Bahamas, along with its AIDS Secretariat, is working vigorously to promote preventative measures and proper health measures for those living with this disease. Recently, the Linkages Project in conjunction with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun the groundwork of linking across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV project. This project is aimed at accelerating the ability of partner governments, key population-led civil society organizations and private-sector providers to plan, deliver and optimize comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services to reduce HIV transmission among key populations and help those living with the disease to live longer.

  5. Diabetes, another top disease in the Bahamas, affects 34,900 Bahamians and can lead to death, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The mortality of this disease in 2011 was 86 deaths per year. Diabetes can lead to other complications and result in similar symptoms to the other top diseases in the Bahamas.

These diseases all have a major impact on the health of the Bahamian people, and health providers continue to promote healthy lifestyles and to lobby for affordable, all-inclusive national health plans to combat their impact.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

The Pacific islands are susceptible to poverty due to their remoteness, geographic spread, frequency of natural disasters, high level of exposure to overseas markets, small internal markets and limited natural resources. However, of these Oceanic nations, the island of Palau seems to be struggling the least. Here are six facts about poverty in Palau.

  1. Palau has one of the highest standards of living in Pacific countries, with a GDP of $287.4 million, an adult literacy rate of 99.5% and a life expectancy of 69. However, the Micronesian nation still relies heavily on United States foreign aid through the Compact of Free Association. The compact includes a wide range of federal programs set to continue until 2030.
  2. Of the population of nearly 21,000, an estimated 4,939 individuals are affected by poverty in Palau, and 1,555 are children. Most of those affected are among the rural population, who rely on small-scale agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods.
  3. The mortality rate for children under the age of five is 18 per 1,000 live births. In comparison, the United States’ child mortality rate is roughly six per 1,000. Skilled health personnel attend nearly all births.
  4. In 2014,  the amount of Palau’s population considered obese was 47%. A 2006 school health survey found 35% of children were either overweight or at risk. The prevalence of obesity and malnutrition can be attributed to the introduction of the western diet, which provides consumers more calories for less money and nutritional value.
  5. For nearly two decades, Palau has sought legal reform regarding domestic violence. While there are statutes prohibiting and punishing violent behavior, no statute specifically addresses domestic violence. However, the Palau Family Protection Act aims to offer protection and deter further acts of family maltreatment, including violence, abuse and neglect. The Act also seeks to expand police officers’ ability to assist victims and enforce the law effectively.
  6. Following the El Nino weather phenomena in 2016, Palau declared a national state of emergency due to drought conditions. UNICEF provided the Ministry of Health with pre-positioned emergency health and nutrition supplies including a comprehensive health kit that could serve 1,000 people. In response to the drought, household water containers were distributed to community health centers to be used for drinking water storage.

Greater commitment to development initiatives has played a key role in keeping poverty in Palau at bay. In a broader context, the principles of emphasizing foreign aid and diplomacy can possibly be applied to other Oceanic nations and eventually strengthen the autonomy of those respective nations.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Climate Resiliency
Amid the hottest year on record, pacific island states are preparing for the consequences of climate change.

Climate change bears a consequential effect on the entire international community, but the first countries to contend with its baleful side effects are the Pacific Island states.

According to a report from the World Bank, pacific island states are highly susceptible to acts of “extreme weather and climate,” because of their reduced population, geographic location and restricted economies.

In 2012, the Pacific Island Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) conducted an assessment of climate change in the pacific region and discovered that the effects of climate change cannot always be observed by human senses. For instance, the balance of Pacific Island habitats is eroding – Hawaiian native forest birds are dying as a result of mosquito-borne disease, which stems from increasing global temperatures.

Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga, however, have demonstrated their commitment to climate resiliency through programs to mollify the aftermath of natural disasters and climate change consequences.

Utilizing $75 million of U.S. federal grants, the aforementioned pacific states have financed the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), which provides local, national and sectoral agencies with added capital to “mainstream climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.”

Other pacific region climate resiliency plans include the 2016 Pacific Resiliency Program (PREP), which was the culmination of a three-day workshop where pacific region diplomats collaborated to abate the effect of climate change.

International institutions play an integral role in climate resiliency, which is demonstrated by their generous grants and credits for preventative programs. For instance, the International Development Association (IDA), the Global Environment Facility Special Climate Change Fund to Tonga, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery to Tonga contributed $43.66 million to the PREP program.

The 2012 PIRCA also noted the potential for a climate change-induced human rights catastrophe. Pacific Island states are likely to have reduced freshwater supplies, increased coastal flooding and erosion, coastal economic decline, and human migration if climate change continues at its current pace.

In the coming years, the international community will be tested by the effects of climate change. It is incumbent for citizens across the world to ensure their political leaders are held to the principles of climate resiliency, as it is likely to be the most consequential threat of the 21st century.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Poor Health in the Pacific Has Hope
The World Health Organization has identified nine out of the top 10 most obese nations as being located in the Pacific. Within these nine nations, rates of obesity range from 35 percent all the way up to 50 percent.

Obesity measurements are calculated by looking at an individual’s BMI, or body mass index. Pacific islanders naturally have a larger build than people of other ethnicities. This is the case because, at one time, people from this region were forced to endure long and difficult journeys at sea. People able to store enough energy in the form of fat were more likely to survive, and evolution selected for these genes. However, this genetic component still does not explain all of the obesity rates.

What does help to explain this epidemic is the increasing number of foods that are being imported to the islands. Traditional tropical diets included an abundance of fresh produce and fish, but these foods are now replaced with more processed foods, which provide a cheaper alternative. One World Health Organization worker and Fijian native even noted that “it’s cheaper to buy a bottle of coke than a bottle of water.”

Additionally, urbanization and increasing numbers of office jobs contribute to poor health in the Pacific. Historically, many jobs such as fishing and farming included a great deal of physical activity. However, as more people begin to drive to work in offices, physical activity is greatly reduced.

This obesity academic is exhibited in children as well. Roughly one in five Pacific children are obese, and diabetes is a constant concern for children as well as health services who struggle to meet increasing demands.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, there is still much hope for improving health in the Pacific. Members of the World Health Organization are confident that higher taxes on soft drinks, controlled marketing of products aimed at children and general promotions of a healthy lifestyle can help to turn things around.

Additionally, Australian researchers recently found an issue with the way that the rates of Type 2 diabetes were being measured in the Pacific. Essentially, blood glucose levels measured in the first phase of the survey were mistakenly compared to plasma levels in the follow-up portion of the survey. This caused rates to become inflated to nearly twice their actual value.

It was originally believed that Samoa experienced a 24.3 percent increase in diabetes from 2002 to 2013 when the actual increase was less than 3 percent. Tonga was thought to have experienced a 12 percent increase when diabetes rates actually decreased by three percent. Clearly, a recalculation may be required.

Although this inflation certainly does not mitigate the entire health crisis occurring in the Pacific islands, it does mean that at least rates of diabetes may be lower than was previously thought. Further steps to improve health in the Pacific will need to include conscious efforts on behalf of national governments, health organizations and citizens to strongly promote healthy living.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr