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  • Solomon Islands
  • Gordon Leua Nanau (bio)

Solomon Islands is vulnerable to natural catastrophes like cyclones, tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes as it is in the "Pacific Ring of Fire." For instance, in 1976, a huge earthquake displaced many people, mostly from South Guadalcanal, who are now relocated to other parts of the island. Likewise, Cyclone Namu in 1996 saw the destruction of schools and homes and also resulted in the relocation of villages, schools, and infrastructure. Selwyn College, a senior secondary school in the country, was moved from the east of Honiara to West Guadalcanal as a result of the effects of Namu. In recent years, the frequency of natural disasters occurring is particularly [End Page 354] high (Catford 2014). The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (unocha) summarized the impact of some of those disasters: "In April 2007, a shallow earthquake measuring 8.1 magnitude triggered a tsunami that killed 52 people … in the Western and Choiseul Provinces. … In February 2013, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands … followed by a one metre high tsunami wave that killed 10 people. … Three days of heavy rain from Tropical Cyclone Ita caused severe flooding in early April 2014. There were 22 confirmed deaths and over 50,000 people affected, mainly in the capital, Honiara, and other areas of Guadalcanal Province" (unocha 2017).

Such disasters are not unique to Solomon Islands; other neighboring Pacific Island communities have also had experiences with drastic weather, including pattern changes, in recent years. Vanuatu had to pick up the pieces after Tropical Cyclone Pam left a trail of destruction and deaths in 2015, and Fiji felt the full brunt of Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016 with loss of human lives and destruction of property. These countries are still recovering from various natural disasters, not to mention the hardship that governments and communities face in their attempts to rebuild and move on. The effects of climate change are undeniable as occurrences of extreme weather events increase. Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries will therefore have to work together to influence international decisions that address the effects of climate change. As former Kiribati President Anote Tong succinctly put it: "We have no choice but to engage even more aggressively internationally because the key to our survival will depend on whether international action is taken on climate change or not. … We can and must continue to work diligently together to influence world opinion on these issues, because they matter to us" (2016, 24).

As in preceding years, floods, cyclones, landslides, and the threat of tsunamis continued to be the norm in 2016 in Solomon Islands. The year saw continuous heavy rains and wet weather at different intervals that brought about serious floods and dangerous winds. In April, many communities suffered damage to their food gardens and drinking water due to the effects of a tropical depression, including continuous rainfall and flooding. Villager and farmer Rose Siku stated that "the damage to her crops would affect her family's livelihood for several months." She also said that "drinking water was contaminated, with most people not having access to tank supplies" (rnz 2016a). In October 2016, parts of the Solomons, particularly islands in Temotu Province, close to Vanuatu, again experienced heavy rains. And as 2016 was coming to an end, another period of torrential rain disrupted infrastructure and affected people's livelihoods. It was forecast that during the 2016–17 cyclone season (which runs from November to April) Solomon Islands could expect as many as ten tropical cyclones (sto 2016).

Toward the end of 2016 and in early 2017, yet another devastating rain with accompanying floods affected the country, destroying [End Page 355] bridges, roads, and food gardens. Flooding in Honiara resulted in no recorded injuries, but patients from the national referral hospital had to be relocated temporarily (Diisango 2017). As in the aftermath of previous tropical depressions and floods, the government with the help of other agencies carried out assessments and provided supplies to keep people going until their food gardens were once again ready for harvesting. For instance, the Solomon Islands Ports Authority assisted the people of East Malaita...


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pp. 354-361
Launched on MUSE
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