The people of Sikaiana are still disconnected from the rest of the country. Sikaiana, also known as the Stewart islands, lies further to the North East of Malaita and is one of the Polynesian outliers in the Solomon Islands.
A recent trip by government officials to the island took into consideration the urgent needs of the people on the island.
Climate Change Director in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Mr. Hudson Kauhiona told Solomon Times Online that under the government’s Integrated Vulnerability Assessment (IVA) tool they were able to witness and record firsthand the issues faced by the people of the island.
At present, Sikaiana has an estimated population of 250 living on the island. Most of the islanders have now moved to Honiara. They often send food supplies to their families in the village when a ship travels to their island, which is quite rare.
“Extreme weather events are issues faced by the people on the island. However, they do not have an evacuation centre that they can use as safe havens”, Kauhiona says.
The Integrated Vulnerability Assessment tool focuses on people’s access to natural, infrastructural, human, finance resources to support their livelihood needs and institutional structures and processes that influence resource assess and use.
The aim of the assessment tool is to identify and prepare the country and its people to the risks posed by climate change and disaster.
On Sikaiana five key areas have been identified as urgent issues for the people.
They are communication, evacuation centre, energy supply, watershed protection projects and erosion.
“Communication is an issue that still needs to be addressed. There are no Telekom no Bemobile and the people still use HF radio where they come on in the morning and in the evening," Kauhiona says.
Apart from extreme weather events, coastal erosion is a pressing issue identified under the IVA.
“The stabilization of the foreshore needs to be done properly”, Kauhiona says.
Sikaiana consists of four separate islets surrounded by coral reefs. Most of the people live on the largest island, Hale.
“Sikaiana boasts the best swamp taro in the Solomon Islands but it is affected by salt water. They need good watershed engineering to safeguard their crops”, Kauhiona says. He says in addition the people do not have proper energy supply.
“They cannot store medicines in the clinics because they do not have the capacity to do that. Some of the vaccines need to be stored in a cooler temperature and on the island, it is not possible. Even the fishermen need good storage facilities for their fish, but they do not have it”, Mr Kauhiona continues.
He says what the government is doing now is to document the information they have collected properly before having a technical input into the information collated.
“Next is for us to find financial support and then implement the plans we have”, Kauhiona says.
He says in their discussions with the people of Sikaiana there was no mention of relocation.
“You know, home is home. There was no mention of relocation actually”, Kauhiona adds.
The Solomon Islands IVA is an integrated, holistic country-wide approach to climate vulnerability assessment and planning led by the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology.
The aim is to improve multi-sector coordination, align support, and optimise the selection of climate change interventions and assess their likely and actual impact.