The Solomon Islands is an archipelago comprising a double chain of 992 islands, of which about one-third are populated. It is divided into nine provinces. The capital city, Honiara is located on the island of Guadalcanal. The main islands are mountainous, heavily forested and with very limited infrastructure, while many outlying islands are atolls or raised coral islands. Some islands, notably the Santa Cruz Islands to the southeast, are very isolated, with many only accessible by sea. The Solomon Islands is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including cyclones, tsunamis, floods and drought. It has a population of approximately 560,000 spread over 347 inhabited islands, which poses significant coordination, logistic and communication challenges during emergencies.
The Solomon Islands Government has established a national cluster system. While it differs from the international cluster approach, it does provide a relevant in-country framework and counterparts for the regional cluster leads but is referred to as committees comprising of all the relevant sectors. OCHA has a presence in the Solomon Islands through 1 staff whom also support the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in coordination and in other key areas based on the needs and request of the NDMO.
On 9 December 2016, a very strong undersea earthquake of magnitude 8.0 occurred at 4:39am local time about 62 kilometers west-southwest of Kirakira, Makira Ulawa Province in the Solomon Islands. Shaking was strongly felt in Makira, south of Malaita, north of Guadalcanal and in Rennel & Bellona. A tsunami was observed in Makira. The Solomon Islands government estimates that almost 7,000 people have been impacted by the earthquake. A nine-year-old child died in Guadalcanal when a house collapsed. In total, 191 houses have been destroyed and 114 damaged. Eleven schools and a medical clinic have also been damaged by the quake. As of 21 December 2016, the estimated number of people affected had climbed to 9,769 people, according to government data. OCHA provide support in coordination, information management.
The Solomon Islands have started feeling the impact of the Pacific wide El Niño-related drought in early 2016. Rationing and water deliveries were conducted to the worst hit parts of the Solomon Islands with predictions that below averages rainfall continuing until February 2016. The country's Drought Index puts north east islands in a medium drought, while the south west experiences a high-level drought.
Three days of heavy rain from Tropical Cyclone Ita caused severe flooding in early April 2014. There were 22 confirmed deaths and over 50,000 people affected, mainly in the capital, Honiara, and other areas of Guadalcanal Province. At the peak of the crisis, approximately 10,000 people were displaced in nearly 30 evacuation centers. On 3 April, the Government declared affected areas a disaster zone and on 5 April, requested the support of the Pacific Humanitarian Team, which deployed over 40 personnel. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) released US$1.8 million to support life-saving health and WASH activities. The Humanitarian Action Plan funding requirement for immediate response needs was $13.6 million.
In February 2013, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands (Temotu Province) and was followed by a one metre high tsunami wave that killed 10 people. OCHA OP deployed six staff members to provide surge support in coordination and Humanitarian Action Plan development. OCHA also provided financial tracking, situation reports, mapping and contributions to early recovery.
OCHA OP through its presence in country, continues to work with the government to build its capacity in emergencies and strengthen its Disaster Management Plan to strengthen coordination. OCHA is also supporting the NDMO in the development of the country preparedness package for the Solomon Islands (CPP).