The Pacific region covers a vast geographical area comprising thousands of islands and atolls. The majority of Pacific island countries contend with the challenges of smallness and geographic isolation. The Pacific island countries are the most heavily aid-assisted part of the world on a per capita basis. The high rates of migration in the region are primarily a response to real and perceived inequalities in socio-economic opportunities.
A variety of hazards including cyclones, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides - constitute a significant part of the vulnerability of Pacific island countries. It is well established that the frequency and intensity of the occurrence of hydro-meteorological events in the region is likely to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change.
Small island countries have fragile water resources due to their small size, lack of natural storage and competing land use, vulnerability to natural and human made hazards and urban pollution. Other important health challenges include high fertility rates, the continued prevalence of communicable diseases and the emerging threat of HIV, combined with a rising crisis in non-communicable disease prevalence. In Melanesia, the threat of gender based violence impacts all aspects of women's lives and increases their vulnerability to HIV. Increasing unemployment and under-employment are a major concern, especially for the region's youth, women and those with disabilities.
The fourteen Red Cross societies of the Pacific are well positioned to play an increasingly significant role in times of disasters and crisis and in helping to meet the health and social challenges of the region. Through their local volunteer-led branch network, Red Cross societies have greater reach into communities than any other civil society actor. Through their disaster management, health and risk reduction programmes the Pacific national societies contribute to achieving national development objectives, including national Millennium Development Goals and the 2005-2010 Pacific Plan initiatives
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent's (IFRC) regional office in the Pacific, has developed its 2011 plan based on the objectives identified by its regional members. The focus of the 2011 plan is to support Red Cross societies to become better functioning and well governed civil society leaders. The IFRC in the Pacific hopes to provide regional national societies with: the ability to plan, resource and manage programmes that address the needs of the most vulnerable men, women and children.