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World: Pacific Islands Humanitarian Bulletin, July 2014

24 July 2014 - 12:08am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia (France), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue (New Zealand), Palau, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, World preview

HIGHLIGHTS

• El Niño alert issued, with meteorologists estimating a 70 per cent chance of event developing by late 2014.

• OCHA and the Pacific Humanitarian Team responded to five emergencies between November 2013 and May 2014.

• Recovery efforts in cyclone-affected Tonga include a cash-for-work programme focusing on food security and debris management.

• A study of the Pacific Humanitarian Team response in the Solomon Islands finds coordination support appreciated, but improved communication and assessments needed.

El Niño alert issued

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued an El Niño alert and is estimating a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño event by late 2014. Northeast trade winds and sea surface temperature anomalies have been evident since February. A large expanse of warm water is currently located along the equator and moving eastwards, with temperatures one to two degrees Celsius higher than average. Some forecasters were initially expecting the El Niño event to be similar in impact to record temperatures experienced in 1997 and 1998, but is now not expected to be as strong as first predicted.

What does this mean for the Pacific Islands?

Drought conditions may be experienced in some Pacific Island countries. In addition to rainfall distribution changes, there could be increased air temperatures due to warm ocean temperatures rising to the surface and making contact with the atmosphere.

In the period from November 2014 to April / May 2015, below average rainfall and drought conditions may be experienced in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Niue and even Tuvalu. These conditions could threaten food security and livelihoods as many island communities depend on the agricultural sector. It is also important to note that the El Niño event is expected to end just as the dry season commences, further exacerbating impacts for communities already dealing with crop and livestock losses.

During El Niño events, Pacific cyclone seasons generally commence earlier than expected, in September / October rather than November / December. Wetter than normal conditions may be experienced in the eastern Pacific area, including Kiribati, Tokelau, French Polynesia and the northern Cook Islands.