It’s that time of the year, again, when much of the Pacific Islands region braces for what everyone calls the ‘cyclone season.’ Over the next several months, weathermen and weatherwomen across the region will keep their eyes peeled on the dynamic graphic representations of weather on their computer screens to predict which complex weather system will hit which island nation, when and with what intensity.
It is a rare year when the region is spared of severe weather phenomena. Weather related destruction on an annual basis is more the norm than the exception. Such are the wages of being situated in a zone that denizens of temperate climes have long called paradise. As we in the islands know so well, Paradise is Janus faced. One of the faces graces the glossy tourist brochures, websites and billboards of the holiday merchants with alluring pictures of the formulaic 4S of sun, sand, sea and sky.
The other is the one that peers out mournfully in front of the wreck of what was once a dwelling from the brochures of global charity organisations. Clamouring for all sorts of help in cash and kind – most often to tide over the hardship caused by a recent natural disaster. These two faces symbolise the contradictions that most small developing economies face.
The slickly packaged paradise proposition that supposedly rakes in the dollars from holidaymakers from distant lands is scarcely enough to create a system for mitigating the horrendous effects of disasters the denizens of these countries are bound to face year in and year out.
That has left them with no option but to depend on the generosity of these same distant countries to come to their aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. Collectively, the islands are estimated to lose upwards of $250 million annually on average. Unfortunately, so far, the ambulance at the bottom of the hill has been the only strategy available to island Governments. Though it is impossible to stop natural disasters from happening, much can be done to prevent their ill effects and mitigate the suffering of victims in their aftermath.
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• We Say is compiled and edited with the oversight of Samisoni Pareti.