Hunger and thirst were widespread across the Pacific in 2015/2016, according to the Caritas State of the Environment Report for Oceania launched at Parliament on 4 October.

The report, Hungry for justice, thirsty for change, shows extreme weather events, combined with ongoing climatic changes, are contributing to a severe loss of food and water supplies in the region.

Caritas report image

Boore Moua plants mangroves on Kiribati. "I don't want to leave my country. I want to stay... I am connected to this land. My grandparents are buried here. For me this is my home."

At its peak, drought caused food and water shortages for an estimated 4.7 million people. The report documents children eating tough cassava roots softened with paracetamol in Fiji, and people in Papua New Guinea walking days to get food and water during the El Niño weather pattern that brought widespread drought to Oceania.

Two major weather events hit the region over the past year. El Niño had particularly harsh effects in Papua New Guinea, while Cyclone Winston was the worst storm ever to hit land in the southern hemisphere. Their combined impact continues to be felt, especially on health, education and livelihoods, with people’s access to safe food and water rated ‘severe’.

However, the report also recognises that strong community resilience, coupled with a largely effective emergency response from governments and humanitarian agencies, helped to minimise loss of life and infrastructure during the El Niño drought.

The Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania report follows how five key environmental issues are affecting people in Oceania:

  • Food and water (severe)
  • Coastal erosion and sea level rise (high)
  • Offshore mining and drilling (moderate)
  • Impact of extreme weather (severe)
  • Climate finance (inadequate)

The 2015/2016 report has been produced by Caritas NZ in collaboration with Caritas Australia and Caritas Tonga, and can be downloaded here (64pp, 2.51MB).