Pacific Displacement: Fiji Sudden-Onset Disasters and Displacement Risk

Originally published
View original


Disaster displacement is one of the world's biggest humanitarian and sustainable development challenges, and climate change and urbanisation are expected to aggravate the phenomenon. As part of the Pacific Response to Disaster Displacement (PRDD) project, IDMC has used its Global Internal Displacement Database to look at future displacement risk associated with sudden-onset hazards such as storm surges, cyclonic winds, tsunamis, and earthquakes in Fiji.

Disasters have triggered about 153,000 displacements in Fiji since IDMC began collecting data on the phenomenon in 2008. Since that date, IDMC has detected 30 disaster displacement events related to weather, such as storms and floods.

About Fiji

Fiji is an archipelago located to the east of Australia and north of New Zealand. It has more than 320 islands and 500 islets, of which slightly more than 100 are inhabited. With a population of 885,000 and a total land mass of 18,274 square kilometres, it is one of the larger nations in the Pacific island region.

The capital, Suva, is on the island of Viti Levu, which is home to about three-quarters of the population. The economy is large and developed as a result of a significant natural resource base, and GDP per capita is between USD 5,000 and 6,000. Tourism also makes up a substantial portion of the economy as does agriculture, especially sugar exports.

The climate of Fiji is generally categorized as oceanic tropical, with a dry season from May to October and a rainy season from November to April. Climate change is expected to affect the country's coastal resources through higher marine temperatures and sea level rise. The country is prone to El Niño events, and infrastructure may be affected by an increase in the frequency and intensity of cyclones and other tropical storms. During an El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, drier and hotter conditions can be expected from June to August. During the November to April wet season, Fiji is normally traversed by tropical cyclones.

Displacement risks

Disasters have triggered about 153,000 displacements in Fiji since IDMC began collecting data on the phenomenon in 2008. About 5,800 people on average are likely to be displaced during any given year in the country by sudden-onset hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclonic winds and storm surges. This is what we call the Annual Average Displacement metric.

The latest census from 2017 reveals that 55.9% of Fiji's population reside in urban areas, an increase from 50.7% in 2007. The urban population stood at 494,252 -- an increase of 69,406, or 16.3%, from 2007. The Fiji Bureau of Statistics (2017) revealed that 76.6%, or 678,153 out of 884,887 of Fiji's total population live on Viti Levu island. Given that most of the population is situated in coastal areas exposed to cyclones and storm surges, disasters in these places will not only have a human impact, but also an economic one.

n many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), exposure to hazards is driven by the growing concentration of people and assets in low-lying coastal areas and the marginalisation of the urban poor in risk-prone areas. This also means disasters affect more urban dwellers with increasingly harmful consequences for employment, housing and critical infrastructure, such as roads, and power and water supplies.

A large number of displacements in Fiji have been triggered by weather-related events. Storms, especially cyclones, are the main triggers of displacement.