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Pacific Islands

When, what, and how to survey after a disaster strikes – an experience from Tonga

Liana Razafindrazay's picture
Winny, an elementary teacher enumerating for the household survey (Uiha Island, Tonga, April 10, 2014). With the support from the Ministry of Education, 35 teachers from Ha'apai participated during the survey.

Back in March 2014, I had the opportunity to be part of a World Bank team supporting the Tongan government to develop a reconstruction policy after Tropical Cyclone Ian hit earlier this year. To implement the policy, the Ministry of Infrastructure led a series of surveys to inform housing reconstruction. This post, which does not intend to be scientific or exhaustive, is to share some of the key lessons I learned from this experience.

Damage assessments are routine in the aftermath of disasters, but they differ depending on their objectives (Hallegatte, 2012 - pdf). A rapid survey in the wake of a disaster event could help to estimate grossly the direct human and economic losses and damages. This type of survey is best to capture the amplitude and the severity of the disaster. However, such survey could present some flaws, often because the survey will be conducted in a very short time frame with minimal design. On the other hand, a survey conducted a few months after the event is best to understand better the context of the disaster. It also allows a better design and better preparation. But, equally, such survey could include biases. For instance, the time lag between the event and the survey itself could create some level of challenges. Most likely, people would have started to fix their houses or have moved away from the affected area, and that will add a layer of complexity to the survey.

Tonga: a national effort to reconstruct Ha’apai after Tropical Cyclone Ian

Liana Razafindrazay's picture
Woman with her baby in a shelter after Tropical Cyclone Ian hit the Ha'apai Islands (Haano Island, Tonga, April 9, 2014). The woman left Haano to deliver her baby in Lifuka Island (the capital of Ha'apai). When she got back, her house had been completely destroyed by the cyclone. She stays in a shelter with her baby and husband.

In the morning of January 11, 2014, after an early warning from the Department of Meteorology and the National Disaster Management Office on the upcoming category 5 tropical cyclone Ian, power and radio transmission went off on the Island of Ha’apai, one of the most populated among the 150 islands of the Tongan archipelago in the South Pacific.

The Pacific Islands are inherently prone to hazards due to their geographic location and small size. Each year Pacific Island countries experience damage and loss caused by natural disasters estimated at an average $284 million, or 1.7% of regional GDP (World Bank 2013). In the coming decades, climate change is expected to make things worse through sea level rise and more intense cyclones.

The Pacific Islands Forum Responds to Climate Change

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture


I am here this week in Majuro in the Marshall Islands – where leaders from the Pacific Island Forum have gathered to discuss the impacts of climate change and to push for global action to mitigate the effects.

Here in the Marshall Islands, the highest point above sea level is only 3 meters.

In May this year, an unprecedented drought in the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands left many without enough food and water.

Beyond the wire: connecting Tonga

Tom Perry's picture
Billboards announcing the arrival of high-speed
broadband internet being installed in downtown
Nukua'lofa, the capital of the Kingdom
of Tonga.

Hoko (‘connect’ in Tongan) is the current buzzword on the streets of the Kingdom of Tonga.

With May 17th recognized around the world as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa is a hive of activity as telecommunications providers set up their activities to mark the day.  The billboards have gone up, teenagers have been lining up at auditions to become the new public face of the marketing campaign for Tongan internet, and the Prime Minister, Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō is planning a public Skype session with Tongan soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.

If there is any year the Kingdom of Tonga would be justifiably excited about its telecomms story, 2013 is it. As one of the most remote island nations on the planet, the impending arrival of high-speed, fiber-optic broadband internet – made possible through the World Bank-supported Pacific Regional Connectivity Project, an 830km-long cable being connected between Fiji and Tonga – means that everyone is talking of hoko.

I spoke to a number of people about the experience with internet in Tonga and how broadband internet would affect their lives.

Welcoming mobile phones and internet to the Solomon Islands

Alison Ofotalau's picture
54 in every 100 Solomon Islander now
has access to some form of modern
telecommunication.

Recently my 10 year old son invited me to be friends with him on Facebook. “Hi mum I’m here too, can we be friends?” was the message I got. I was shocked and worried at the same time, and my initial reaction was fear of the perceived harm social media could do to a person as young as he.
 
We finally agreed that his father would have access to his Facebook account to monitor his online activities until he reaches 18. But the moment he gets or posts something inappropriate, the deal is off. That’s a fair deal, I told myself and interacting through social media could actually enrich my son’s life.
 
What I’m going through is also experienced by other families in the Solomon Islands. It started when mobile phone technology began revolutionizing the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders in the last five years, when the telecommunications industry was opened for competition. Previously, only business executives and senior government officials owned or had access to mobile phones – a luxury only the rich and the influential would enjoy.

Earthquake in Vanuatu highlights importance of telecommunications reform

Aleta Moriarty's picture
Everyone was on their phone—ringing loved ones, ringing offices, ringing those that mattered—to get reassurance that people are okay, to check on damage, to ring for advice on the threat of a tsunami.