Severe drought in the Pacific Islands

A severe drought in the Pacific Islands has created a critical water shortage.

The island groups of Tuvalu and Tokelau have declared emergencies, relying on bottled water and seeking more desalination machines. Parts of Samoa are starting to ration water.

Six months of low rainfall have dried out the islands. Climate scientists say it’s part of a cyclical Pacific weather pattern known as La Nina – and they predict the coming months will bring no relief, with the pattern expected to continue.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully says other islands in the South Pacific are also reporting water shortages.

He said New Zealand is carrying out a regional assessment amid fears the drought could lead to crop failures and food shortages.


In Tuvalu supplies are precariously low after a severe lack of rain in a region where underground reserves have been fouled by salt water from rising seas that scientists have linked to climate change.

Families in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti, are being allowed only two buckets of water a day a. The government estimates the country has five days of drinking water left.

A New Zealand Defence Force Hercules carrying Red Cross supplies and desalination units arrived in Tuvalu on Monday carrying water and desalination units. Andrew McKie from Red Cross New Zealand said they were transported to an island right in the south of Tuvalu, Nookilaulau, which although it’s a small island was one of the ones worst affected by the drought


A  priest who has just arrived in Tokelau says people are happy to hear that assistance is on the way.

Father Oliver Aro runs a mission on the atoll of Nukunonu, and says people are conscious of using water.

“As far as I have observed, people’s lives are limited with things like hygiene, using their bathroom. They are more particular, because they don’t want to waste water now.”

The three main atolls that make up isolated Tokelau, a New Zealand-administered territory with a population of 1400, residents ran out of fresh water altogether last week and are relying on a seven-day supply of bottled water that was sent on Saturday from Samoa.

A Defence New Zealand Force Hercules carrying water containers  flew to Pago Pago in American Samoa on Thursday, where it met up with a US Coastguard vessel. The ship, which has an on-board desalination plant to fill the containers, will then travel to Tokelau’s three main islands.

Churches commend swift action and call for long term plans

The Right Rev Peter Cheyne, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has commended McCully for his prompt action. The Presbyterian Church has a strong relationship with Te Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu.

Bruce Mullen, from the Uniting Church of Australia’s Pacific division says Australia may need to consider resettling people from the Pacific in the future, with a number of the island nations in the grip of a serious drought.

“The long term issue is that some of these atoll islands are not going to be sustainable for human habitation indefinitely. So the long-term issue is how we address relocation – there’s nothing worse than having to dislocate people as a matter of urgency and trauma. It’s much better to think these things through with a bit of time.”


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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