The 15 islands and coral atolls of the Cook Islands are scattered over 2 million km² between American Samoa to the west and French Polynesia to the east. Nine of the islands are of volcanic origin and only 13 are inhabited.
The Cook Islands are highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. Cyclones are the most frequently occurring disaster, causing casualties and severe damage to property and infrastructure. Disasters can result in short and long term devastating social, economic and environmental consequences which can set back the country’s hard won development progress.
The most recent severe cyclone struck the Cook Islands in February 2010 and, despite no deaths or casualties, the entire population of the island of Aitutaki was either directly or indirectly affected. The Cook Islands experienced a serious dengue outbreak in May 2009 with nearly 1,000 cases reported on the main island of Rarotonga. In 2005, a series of five Category 3-5 cyclones passed over the islands in a period of just six weeks, and in 1997, the Cook Island’s worst disaster, Tropical Cyclone Martin, hit the atoll of Manihiki and left 19 people dead.
Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) is the government’s full-time disaster risk management coordination office to manage crisis prevention, response and recovery. The role of EMCI is to strengthen Cook Islands resilience to the threats of disasters and climate change to achieve sustainable livelihoods. The UN have a presence in the Cook Islands through a Joint Presence Office (JPO) which coordinates UN work and support in country and act as a liaison with the Government. The Cook Islands is covered under the UN Resident Coordinator based in Samoa. OCHA in partnership with UNDP on behalf of the Pacific Humanitarian Team is supporting the development of the country’s preparedness package (CPP).