Island nations of the Pacific – countries like Micronesia, Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu – face recurrent natural disasters, made increasingly frequent and intensified by climate change. At times, these events cause mass movements of people, as those affected seek safety from the impact of typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and drought.
Climate change also drives rising sea levels, further threatening coastal communities. While sea levels are rising around the world, the islands of the Pacific are experiencing the most dramatic changes. In recent decades, at least eight low-lying islands have disappeared into the ocean.
Natural disasters, such as the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that struck Papua New Guinea in early 2018, have caused millions of dollars in damage and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Life-saving assistance is urgently needed to aid survivors, many of whom are cut off by continuing landslides.
Looking forward, it is crucial to enhance the capacity of the Pacific Islands to prepare for and respond to potential emergencies, and to aid those most heavily impacted by climate change.
Merlyn lives with her extended family in their home along the waterfront of Micronesia’s main island, Chuuk. The family’s ancestry extends several generations back.
The long familial ties to the land are among the reasons why she chose to stay after Typhoon Maysak ripped through the area and severely damaged her home two years ago.
“I remember it getting so bad that day many of us ran and took shelter at the mayor’s house, which was just up the road,” she recalled.
When the storm passed there was not much left of her home. Despite the loss, Merlyn joined hundreds of others in Chuuk, working with the community to rebuild her home and many others.
Within two months, the family moved into their new home, now better than before. Merlyn hopes her family will continue to live there for generations to come.
IOM’s response in the Pacific Islands includes:
IOM provides victims of natural disasters with emergency relief supplies, including tarps, shelter kits and water storage cans. IOM technical teams also train local workers in best practices and safety standards for home repair and construction in the wake of disasters.
Resilience and Environment Management
IOM offers training to disaster coordinators, first responders, community leaders and medical professionals to strengthen the emergency response capacity of the Pacific Islands.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
IOM works to ensure natural disaster victims can access clean water and sanitation at health facilities. IOM also distributes hygiene kits and delivers health and hygiene training.
Health & Psychosocial Support
IOM provides nutrition services and psychosocial first aid to those affected by natural disasters.
IOM develops an educational curriculum for local students on climate change adaptation in the Pacific, including what to do in the case of a disaster emergency.