After leading the production of a climate change Virtual Reality production in Fiji and returning it to communities, Tom Perry, the World Bank's Team Leader for Pacific Communications, shares his thoughts.
It’s not often that Bank staff members help make history – but we did by assisting Tuvalu in becoming the 192nd member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Created in 1944, the ICAO is a UN organization that sets standards and regulations for civil aviation. ICAO membership is important for Tuvalu, as it is a key prerequisite for the development of international air services.
‘Are we there yet?’ On a long road trip, perhaps you’ve asked or heard this question.
Let’s direct this question to the state of urban flood risk management in Pacific Island countries. In this case, the ‘destination’ is flood-resilient communities.
For Pacific Island countries, no, we’re not there yet, but are we heading in the right direction?
People read about climate change every day and we are all familiar with it as a concept. While we understand that steps need to be taken to address the risks; its impact often feels harder to imagine. We assume that the impacts are something we will experience in the future.
But in the Pacific, the impacts are already being felt by communities. This came across clearly in our work on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment – Making Fiji Climate Resilient report, which the Fijian Government produced with the support of our team and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and which was launched at COP23.
For many Pacific Island countries, natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis, are an all-too common occurrence. Out of the top 15 most at-risk countries for natural disasters globally, four are Pacific Island countries, and Vanuatu is consistently at the top.
In 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, and knowing the extent of damage was vital for the government to identify and plan reconstruction needs. A team of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) experts were sent out to quickly establish credible estimates of the damages and losses. Many damage reports were already available from the field, but with varying quality, and the challenge was to consolidate and verify them, within a very tight timeframe. Cloud cover also prevented us from getting satellite images, so we mobilized two UAV teams to fly below the clouds and capture high-resolution footage showing the impacts on the ground in the worst affected islands in Tafea and Shefa province.
Challenges continued throughout, from needing to coordinate airspace with those flying relief goods into affected areas, to transferring massive datasets over low internet bandwidths. But with team-effort and ingenuity, solutions were found; the UAV teams were able to capture valuable damage footage within sampled areas during the day, which were analysed overnight by volunteers of the Humanitarian Open Street Map (HOT) and the Digital Humanitarian Network; new workflows were developed to collate the data and to feed the outputs into the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment.
When I was in primary school, there was a large construction project happening on the road in front of our house. I remember it was loud, dusty and the subject of constant complaints from our neighbors. However, my most vivid memory is of all the shiny, majestic machinery being delivered by the workers in their bright orange uniforms.
There was an immediate fascination among the children with these powerful and temptingly dangerous machines. Of course our parents all drilled us with the same message – “Do not go near, do not touch, do not interfere with the nice men repairing the roads,” and so we abided, but the curiosity and thrill of potentially touching these metal monsters never entirely subsided. Luckily, working in the transport sector now I get to be around construction equipment all the time!
New Zealand has a long history of supporting its close neighbors in the Pacific, both in times of disaster and emergencies, and to help improve the lives of many thousands across the region.
On Waitangi Day, the national day of New Zealand, we take a look at three key World Bank projects in the Pacific, and how New Zealand’s support has been integral to making them happen.
Driving from the airport into the city of Apia, the capital of Samoa, is a great introduction to the country. Villages line the road with gardens filled with colorful flowers and palm trees. Hugging the northwest coastline, the road sometimes comes as close as five meters from the shoreline, giving passengers truly spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
While it’s a scenic introduction to Samoa, this drive is also a stark reminder of just how sensitive the country’s coastline is to erosion and damage. More than 50% of West Coast Road, Apia’s main roadway, sits less than three meters (9.8 feet) above sea level and just a few meters from the shoreline, making it highly vulnerable to damage and deterioration. When tropical cyclones, heavy rain, king tides and storm surges hit these coastal roads, they can lead to erosion, flooding and landslips, causing road closures and threatening the safety of the people who use them.
With the throttle at full tilt, the boat cut through the surf, spraying salt water into the air.
Around me, the unfolding scenery is breathtaking. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, swaying coconut palms – the textbook image of paradise in the South Pacific.
What more could one ask for in paradise?
Water, is what they will tell you. “They” are the people of Nanngu Village on the island of Santa Cruz in the far east of Solomon Islands.
Out here, water to drink, cook food with, wash and keep clean is hard to come by.
The last time they had proper running water was 20 years ago. That came to an end at the hands of a Category Three cyclone, Nina, which hit the islands in 1993.
As I write this, we’re on our way to Nanngu to see a new World Bank-supported project bringing water to the village.