Pacific leaders campaign for donor help to cope with extreme weather | Asia Pacific

Pacific leaders campaign for donor help to cope with extreme weather

Pacific leaders campaign for donor help to cope with extreme weather

Updated 7 August 2014, 13:16 AEST

Pacific Island leaders have launched a global campaign to improve weather forecasting and climate services in small island nations.

Extreme weather accounts for 76 per cent of all natural disasters in the Pacific and a number of countries are still reeling from recent storms and flash flooding.

The leaders are hoping the United Nations Conference on Small Island States in Samoa in September will see donors come to the party.

Correspondent: Jemima Garrett

Speakers: Gordon Darcy Lilo, Prime Minister, Solomon Islands; Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister, Samoa; Alan, Honiara resident; David Hiriasia, Director, Solomon Islands Meteorological Service

ANIMATION VOICE OVER: For thousands of years Islanders have used information from the world around to warn them of approaching storms..

GARRETT: With the toll from extreme weather increasing traditional forecasting methods are not enough to warn people of imminent danger.

This week Pacific leaders are launching a new campaign, on behalf of all small island states, for increased donor assistance with the technology, training and early warning systems needed to keep people safe.

In April this year, Alan was among the thousands of Solomon Islanders to feel the brunt of wild weather.

ALAN: The flash flood came and pulled out all the buildings and my big 8-room house as well and also all my belongings. We would not be able to save any.

GARRETT: Twenty-two people died and thousands lost their homes, belongings and life savings.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo says the toll on his people is real and disheartening, and made worse by the broader impact on the economy and government.

LILO: We have had some very significant destruction on our infrastructure as well. The bridges, the roads and that has affected the economy, the ability of the government to govern and so it has caused a lot of significant impact on the economy, that way. One of our mines for instance, you know the only gold mine that we had, has been closed down as a result of the destruction of the bridge and, as a result of the close-down of that mine it has caused a huge dent on the economy, the revenue to the state, the business houses and so forth. so there is a significant economic cost as a result of this flash flood.

GARRETT: The Pacific leaders campaign for more effort to improve weather forecasting and emergency warning systems is being supported by the World Meteorological Organisation and the secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Solomon Islands is a double chain of sometimes widely-scattered islands stretching across 1500 kilometres of ocean.

The lack of resources facing its Director of Meteorological Services, David Hiriasia, is similar to that in many other small island states.

HIRIASIA: Getting the observations, weather observations across the country is a challenge. currently we only have 5 operational meteorological stations around and in terms of getting weather observations that is not adequate.

GARRETT: Early next month Samoa will play host to 3000 delegates at the United Nations Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States.

In a message for his people Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says in severe weather events communications is a priority for warnings and responses.

TUILAEPA: (Speaks in Samoan language)

GARRETT: This is why partnership is important, he says, because most developing countries do not have the resources to cope with disasters and depend on donors.

Donors from Scandinavia are already well on the way to committing new resources to the small island states and it is hoped others will follow.

The Pacific leaders campaign is also going online with a website called WeatherTogether, a photo competition and an animation by Fiji-based graphic artist Tumeli Tuqota Junior

ANIMATION VOICE OVER: Clever forecasters can use science to predict what the weather will do days, months and even years into the future. many Islanders are also connected by mobile phones, satellite and TV. With stronger weather services small Island nations can provide their people with the precious time needed to prepare for extreme weather. They can even use new information about the changing climate to build stronger houses and grow better crops. don't just wait for the weather. Find out how we can all work together to strengthen weather and climate services for small island nations.

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