What are the needs?
The Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea, Fiji Islands, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands and Vanuatu, is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world in terms of the recurrence, severity and scope of hazards. It suffers from high exposure to cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and flash floods, tidal surges, landslides, drought, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, as well as epidemics. This is compounded by environmental degradation and the negative impact of climate change.
Most recently in February 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston swept across large parts of Fiji, leaving more than 350 000 people affected and vast tracts of farmlands devastated.
Since mid-2015, several Pacific countries, particularly Papua New Guinea, have been adversely affected by the El Niño climatic phenomenon. This event has triggered irregular weather patterns, causing extensive damage to crops and affecting the food security of a large number of populations in impacted areas.
Lack of economic diversity, remoteness from major trade and commercial centres, and strong gender inequalities are factors which characterise many of the Pacific island nations, and exacerbate their vulnerability to disasters. With a total population of some 10 million spread across the vast area, the death toll and number of people affected by natural calamities can appear rather low in standard disaster statistics, but the Pacific countries rank among the highest in casualties and people affected per inhabitant.
How are we helping?
The EU provides humanitarian assistance to the Pacific region both in terms of disaster preparedness and emergency relief when major disasters strike.
In response to Tropical Cyclone Winston, the European Commission has made available €1 million to support the provision of shelter, food assistance and access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene to the most vulnerable communities. Through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, essential relief items could also be delivered to impacted communities.
Following the prolonged anomalous weather pattern triggered by the strong El Niño phenomenon in Papua New Guinea, the Commission allocated last year over €1.2 million to enable its partner organisations to provide relief and build resilience amongst the most vulnerable families. As the dry spell continued into mid-2016, a further €2 million has been released to meet urgent food needs and restore livelihoods of affected populations.
The European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) also regularly responds to small or localised disasters in the Pacific region through its 'small scale response mechanism'. In April 2014, when floods displaced some 9 000 people in Solomon Island’s Guadalcanal province, home to the capital of Honiara, the EU provided funding for humanitarian operations.