A picture can tell a thousand words but the stunning photos we usually associate with the Pacific Islands often overlook the reality for many who live there. Faced with natural hazards such as cyclones, droughts and earthquakes alongside geographical remoteness and isolation, Pacific Island countries, which make up over a third of small island developing states (SIDS), are some of the most vulnerable nations in the world.
Already this year the Pacific region has been hit by two major disasters; Tropical Cyclone Ian in Tonga in January, followed by flash flooding in Solomon Islands in April. Both disasters had devastating impacts on the economy and livelihoods of local communities. Situated within the cyclone belt and Pacific Ring of Fire, earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones are frequent. Around 41 tropical cyclones occur each year across the region as well as numerous earthquakes and floods.
|The ocean represents transport, food, culture and livelihoods for people of the Pacific.|
A few years ago in Papua New Guinea on a holiday I was lucky enough to spend a day with a fisherman who took me out on his dugout canoe. For hours we slowly skimmed along the surface of the ocean, the clear water providing a wonderful lens to the world below teeming with life. Fish, starfish, coral, eels, plants—a world beyond my wildest imagination.
He pointed out the plants he ate and others he used as traditional medicine. He showed me innocuous-looking creatures that would spell certain death. He showed me the craggy hiding hole of the tail-less crocodile that was the lead character in village folklore. He showed me the fish he caught that fed his family and provided him with an income and how his father had taught him to catch them, like he too had taught his children.