Pacific Islands Report

UN Ranks 5 Pacific Nations High For Disaster Risk
Rankings highlight vulnerability of island countries: official
MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Oct. 10, 2013) – A report by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNSDR) has found that five Pacific countries – Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands – are among the top 15 disaster risk countries in the world, with Vanuatu and Tonga ranked as the top two, and Fiji in 15th place. UNSDR’s Pacific sub-regional coordinator,Tim Wilcox, says these rankings highlight the vulnerability of Pacific island countries and their exposure to disasters in the region. The report found that natural disasters are costing Fiji US$79 million annually, about 2.6 percent of its GDP, which Wilcox says is worrying. "[It] just emphasises the importance of investing in prevention strategies now so that communities and buildings and the private sector are more resilient," he said. According to Wilcox, preventive measures are cost effective but are not practiced as often as they should be, with people constructing buildings that are not cyclone proof. Wilcox says the UNSDR is trying to create awareness about the benefits of building hazard proof infrastructure, although it might take a few years before there are any significant reductions in risks faced by these countries. But Wilcox says countries like Fiji are taking that first step towards the right direction. The media is one avenue through which the UNSDR is reaching out to people, and it recently conducted a two-day training session in Suva, Fiji, where journalists were taught about disaster risk reduction. Wilcox says the media can help people understand how infrastructure can be built better to withstand natural disasters.