Oceania
cyclone-harold

Pacific megastorm complicates COVID-19 response

A powerful storm that ripped across four Pacific Island nations raises an uncomfortable question for humanitarians on lockdown: how do you respond to a disaster during a pandemic? Cyclone Harold was the first Category-5 storm to make landfall in the Pacific since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic in March. Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands saw extensive damage, while some 6,000 people were evacuated in Fiji. COVID-19 has forced the global aid sector to rethink how it responds to disasters when faced with flight cancellations and closed borders. (Photo: NASA via The New Humanitarian)

Oceania

New Caledonia voters reject independence —for now

In an independence referendum that drew record numbers to the polls, voters in the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia voted 56 to 44 percent to remain a French territory. The referendum was the fruit of a 1988 peace accord with the armed Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS). However, the referendum was repeatedly postponed amid controversies over whether only native residents or also French colonists and their descendants would get to vote. Under terms of the 1998 Noumea Accord, only French colonists and descendants already in the territory by that point would be eligible. The indigenous Kanaks now represent only 40% of the territory's population. However, the future of the archipelago is still uncertain. French law allows for a possible second or third vote if the first goes against independence. (Photo: NurPhoto/Getty via SBS News)

Oceania

Climate change ‘single greatest threat’ to Pacific

The 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum held their 49th summit in Nauru, issuing a statement asserting that "climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people." Leaders at the Forum urged all the world's countries to comply fully with their commitments to mitigate emissions. Among the projects discussed at the summit was redrafting the 2000 "Biketawa Declaration" on regional security in the Pacific as a "Biketawa Plus," with a greater emphasis on environmental security and climate-related disasters. Under the slogan "We are not drowning, we are fighting," community leaders across the Pacific Islands have been pushing for world action on climate change and adherence to the 2015 Paris Accords. (Photo: 350.org)

Oceania

Fiji: not a ‘natural’ disaster

There are few climate-change skeptics in Fiji, which has been left devastated by Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere.