Tuvalu refugees represent some of the first waves of climate refugees. Huge numbers of Tuvaluans have been displaced after watching their island home between Hawaii and Australia be eroded by rising sea levels, intensifying natural disasters and soil degradation from contaminated groundwater. With no official recognition of climate refugees, Tuvaluans are increasingly threatened by the loss of their homes and hung out to dry by wealthy neighboring countries unwilling to accept their refugee status. Here are ten facts about Tuvalu refugees.

10 Facts About Tuvalu Refugees

  1. The island nation of Tuvalu has its highest elevations at just 15 feet above sea level. Experts predict that if sea levels were to rise by just three feet, many of the most populated areas of Tuvalu would be severely damaged, if not completely destroyed.
  2. Funafuti, the most populous island of Tuvalu, has suffered from severe droughts, water shortages and contaminated groundwater due to rising sea levels in recent years. The effects of these conditions on agriculture have translated to widespread malnourishment and displacement.
  3. Climate change experts predict that Tuvalu might become completely submerged underwater between 30-50 years from now if current trends continue. There is a general consensus that Tuvalu and similar nations will no longer exist by the end of the century.
  4. Already, one-fifth of Tuvalu’s population of 12,000 have left their homes to relocate to larger islands, where croplands are still fertile, or to neighboring New Zealand. As a result, the Tuvaluan community in New Zealand has nearly tripled since 1996.
  5. Life is difficult for Tuvalu refugees who have legally immigrated to New Zealand, with just more than half of Tuvaluan adults employed. Those who have immigrated illegally face even more economic and social hardships. Tuvaluan immigrants also worry about losing their cultural identity, as their children are born in highly developed host countries.
  6. Reports on climate trends have predicted 200 million “environmental refugees” by 2050, essentially one out of every 34 people on earth. Other estimates of future climate change migrants range from tens of thousands to one billion in the next 50 years.
  7. Climate refugees are not yet considered refugees under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Consequently, there are “no current provisions for their protection and assistance” according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
  8. A landmark 2014 ruling by New Zealand’s Refugee Court granted legal residency to Tuvaluan Sigeo Alesana and his family after they appealed for asylum, citing climate change and overpopulation among the reasons that made life “untenable” on their native island. The court acknowledged the presence of climate change as a factor in the case, other factors affecting the family, such as an elderly mother who needed care, would have been enough to grant them asylum regardless. As a result, this case won’t open the doors for other climate change refugees from island nations. New Zealand has allocated Tuvalu only 75 annual slots in its visa program for Pacific workers.
  9. As the intensity of natural disasters and storms in the region increase, experts worry that if a natural disaster similar to Hurricane Katrina were to hit Tuvalu, it would cause irreversible damage. Tuvalu has few exportable natural resources and a GDP that relies heavily on the sale of collectible stamps and its internet domain suffix, .tv, nothing that could help its rebuild after large-scale damage.
  10. The Tuvaluan government has considered using its $100 million in reserves to purchase a new homeland for the small population, but legal and political obstacles threaten this plan. Moving could affect Tuvalu’s right to sovereignty as a nation, its fishing rights and the government’s ability to continue providing public services after financing such a move.

Based on these 10 facts about Tuvalu refugees, there are many hurdles for Tuvalu to cross both short term and long term. In the short run, Tuvalu should continue investing their reserves heavily in renewable freshwater storage systems and ongoing soil rehabilitation and protection programs. They should enlist foreign aid to help build one-time purchases, such as stabilizing bulwarks that prevent coastal erosion.

In the long run, Tuvalu should look to neighboring nations such as Kiribati who have established forward-thinking programs, such as their “Migration With Dignity” program, which involves training citizens as highly skilled workers who will then be welcomed into other countries because of their human capital when they are eventually forced to relocate. Tuvalu would do well to begin such programs as soon as possible, as the threats of climate change are more pressing and real for them than foreign leaders care to believe.

Saru Duckworth

Photo: Flickr

How are Climate Change and Hunger in Tuvalu Related?Once known as the Ellice Islands, the country of Tuvalu is a collection of nine islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. Though Tuvalu has a population of around 11,200, it is considered one of the least developed countries in the world. As a result, hunger in Tuvalu is a major concern for the people and their government.

The latest report on poverty headcount ratio conducted by the World Bank was in 2010, which stated that 26.3 percent of the population is estimated to live below the national poverty line. Additional reports conclude that 61.3 percent of Tuvalu citizens aged 15-years and up are employed. Thus, places where poverty is allowed to fester, increased rates of hunger are expected to rise.

Hunger in Tuvalu is considered to be a result of one of the biggest instigators in the country, climate change. Climate change is a constant concern for the people and the government of Tuvalu. Many political figures of Tuvalu are strong advocates for environmentalism and continuously campaign against climate change.

These politicians argue that climate change will not only contribute to increasing sea levels but will expedite the salination of soil that threatens agriculture.

According to U.N. reports, Tuvalu is expected to completely disappear beneath the ocean because of global warming. Moreover, salinization of the soil reduces agricultural output which detrimentally affects local farmers and the Tuvalu economy.

In Tuvalu, the largest export commodity within the country is the dried coconut kernels of coconut palm trees. Without enough land coverage or quality soil for agriculture, hunger in Tuvalu is expected to climb substantially within the following years.

The U.N. has even identified that hunger in Tuvalu is a result of climate change in the following released statement, “The diet of Tuvaluans is primarily based on the marine environment and a limited number of food crops. These will be seriously affected by climate change. There will be a number of impacts that will affect the food security of Tuvalu. These include coral bleaching, ocean acidification, saltwater contamination and sea level rise.”

In response, the U.N., as well as delegates of the Pacific Island States, have committed to reducing both hunger and climate change through the use of ratifying the Paris Agreement.

In 2016 during the annual debate at the U.N. General Assembly, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoanga applauded and showed solidarity with the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Prime Minister Sopoanga stated that “We must [now] ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force [and that] it must be fully elaborated and operationalized as early as possible on real adaptation and mitigation.”

Prime Minister Sopoanga also brought to light the plight that climate change has had on the country of Tuvalu. The prime minister expressed that, “We pray that through these great halls of the U.N., our humble voice will be amplified by the conscience and goodwill of humanity for real urgent action.”

During the debate, Prime Minister Sopoanga expressed numerous times that the country of Tuvalu was fully prepared to meet the targets of the global development agenda in order to reduce climate change.

With continued efforts to ratify legislation as well as advocate against climate change, the country of Tuvalu should expect to see significant improvement in not only the integrity of their islands but also a reduction of hunger in Tuvalu.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Hunger has been a problem for Tuvalu in recent year due to the environment and the economy. This article will examine the country of Tuvalu, the problem of hunger, and some possible solutions to this issue.



Tuvalu is a small country in the southwest Pacific Ocean made of up nine islands. By land area, this country is the fourth smallest country in the world and it is inhabited by 11,636 people. Most of the islands are less than fifteen feet above sea level. Subsistence fishing and subsistence farming primarily drive the economy. The climate is typically hot and rainy.



Tuvalu experienced extreme droughts from 2010 to 2011 due in part to La Niña and exacerbated by climate change

During this time, most residents could not get clean water and many were concerned about food security. A lack of rain spelled trouble for farmers and contributed to hunger in Tuvalu.



Climate change has had an immense impact on hunger in Tuvalu. Subsistence fishing is the most common trade on the islands and most people of Tuvalu have a heavy diet of fish, but it has become harder for Tuvaluans to catch and eat fish.

Even the fish that many fishermen catch have been noticeably smaller. Fishermen have to fish farther from shore and for longer periods to catch enough fish to feed their families.

This is because the habitats of the reef fish are being threatened. The warmer sea waters cause the coral reefs to bleach and die. This, in turn, means that reef fish will die because they no longer have a thriving habitat.

Additionally, rising sea levels have made the soil more salty, which has made it harder for farmers to grow food. Consequently, more subsistence farmers are having trouble feeding their families.



In recent years, Tuvalu has experienced high levels of unemployment and few opportunities for employment.

As the climate of the globe has changed, the farmers and fishermen of Tuvalu have faced economic problems because they are used to being self-sufficient. Now Tuvalu must import much of its food, but many families cannot afford to.



The solutions to the problem of hunger have to consider both economic and environmental factors that contribute to this problem.

In 1998, the Government of Tuvalu allocated funds called the Special Development Expenditures to help diversify the economy. This has been successful. More people in Tuvalu are owning private businesses, and more people are becoming commercial fishermen.

However, the problem of climate change puts more responsibility from other countries around the globe because other countries contribute to climate change that greatly affects Tuvalu, especially because of its low-lying islands. Other countries must take responsibility to combat climate change to alleviate the problem of hunger in Tuvalu.

– Ella Cady

Sources: Tuvalu Millenium Development Goals, The Guardian The Hunger Site Tuvalu Islands
Photo: Flickr

In the last leg of their Diamond Jubilee Tour of 2012, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge [Kate Middleton and William Young] made a stop at the island of Tuvalu, joining them in their tribal dances among other activities. Tuvalu is located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean near Australia, is the second smallest country in the world at only ten square miles in area, and is a country rarely discussed in the media.

Taiwanese eco-artist Vincent Huang will soon be unveiling the very first “floating pavilion” there, a pool crossed by walkways. The symbolism behind this pavilion, based on the rising sea levels and ever-changing climate, offers insight to one of the many geographical challenges that the country has faced, which has led to economic instability. According to Huang: “Tuvalu is the smallest national pavilion but we’re dealing with the biggest global crisis. I believe that most people have never heard about Tuvalu but it’s an iconic victim in terms of climate crisis.”

However, the climate crisis in itself is only part of the problem. Tuvalunans rely heavily on foreign aid in the form of imported food products because of a lack of a fresh water supply and poor soil quality. They find themselves less and less able to purchase the food due to rising prices, falling remittances and loss of jobs. In sum: climate change with rising sea levels, little access to fresh water, soil lacking in nutrients, pollution, and climate change along with an inability to afford the necessary imported food has led to malnutrition.

According to UNICEF Pacific Social Policy Specifist Reiko Yoshihara-Miskelly: “malnutrition, in earlier age, it has a long-lasting effect, given that brain development in early childhood could be crucial for children’s later performance in schools and life.” In fact, 1.6 percent of children under five years old suffer from malnutrition in a nation of only about eleven thousand total in population.

However, UNICEF is working to alleviate this problem not just in Tuvalu, but worldwide through a project entitled The Power of Nutrition. Released on the sixteenth of April, the goal of this project is to access $1 billion through partnerships with philanthropic associations through a trust fund with the World Bank Group for the purpose of child nutrition. Learn more at

– Anna Brailow

Sources: BBC, Daily Mail, Knoema, The Power of Nutrition, Radio Australia, UNICEF
Photo: Mirror

Tuvalu is one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth. The total land area of the country is approximately 26 square kilometers, or comparatively 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC. Located in Oceania, the country is an island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of 10,782.

Education System Restructure: Late 1990s

Prior to the restructuring of the education system in 1998, communities operated early childhood education and  had no support from the government. Preschools were operated under a voluntary basis and teachers were poorly appointed and often untrained. Tuvalu also did not have the proper infrastructure to support schools.

When education in Tuvalu was restructured, the following five strategies were put in place: the government would provide financial assistance to all preschools; formal training would be offered to preschool teachers; new salaries would be granted to preschool teachers; funds for building preschool classrooms were secured by the government; and preschool education linked with the primary section would be provided for three year olds.

Tuvalu’s education system at the primary level was also restructured and revamped. Goals and targets contained in the Tuvalu National Education Policy Document included compulsory education for all Tuvaluan children between the ages of six and 15, redesigning and strengthening the administration of the education system, access to education and training for all, development of a national curriculum, as well as improvements to school buildings, teacher training and programs for students with special needs.

Many other improvements and goals were to be met following the restructuring of the system. Children were not the only focus of the reform—education for survival with reference to community life skills was also made available. The skills that adults were offered included secretarial skills (typing, computing, office skills, etc.), carpentry, pluming, engineering and home economics.

Additionally, strategies were put in place to improve the overall quality of life and standards of living. Basic housing, clothing, water, food and nutrition, access to health and education as well as the ability to participate in community life and cultural pursuits strengthened the communities of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu Today

Many of the strategies and Millennium Development Goals have improved conditions in Tuvalu. For example, Tuvalu’s youth literacy rate (ages 15-24) rose from 95 percent in 1991 to 98.6 percent in 2007. The percentage of cohorts reaching grade five also rose dramatically from 72.7 percent in 2000 to 91.2 percent in 2004.

According to the IMF, although cases of extreme poverty are rare, poverty in Tuvalu has risen in the last few years despite improvements in education. Given Tuvalu’s limited land area, poor soil and geographic isolation, it is difficult to create large private-sector employment opportunities domestically. Therefore, citizens of Tuvalu will need to better utilize overseas job opportunities, including seafarer employment and the temporary labor migration scheme in New Zealand.

Vocational training will need to be strengthened in order to enhance the competitiveness of Tuvaluans for these important sources of foreign exchange earnings and to reduce poverty.

– Eastin Shipman

Sources: International Council for Open and Distance Education, UNESCO 1, UNESCO 2, UNESCO 3, CIA Factbook,