Samoa, March 23, 2012 - During her first visit to the Pacific as World Bank Regional Vice President for East Asia and Pacific, Pamela Cox met today with people affected by the 2009 tsunami in Samoa, and emphasized the need for Pacific Island countries to act today to prepare for tomorrow in managing risks from natural disasters and external economic shocks.
Managing risks is particularly important for Pacific Island countries, which represent eight out of twenty countries ranked globally by disaster losses as a proportion of gross domestic product. Over the past sixty years natural disasters have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific region, have led to almost 10,000 deaths and caused damages of around $US3.2 billion.
Coxwas appointed to her current position in January and brings with her considerable expertise in disaster risk management from Latin America and the Caribbean, where she also served as vice president.
In Samoa, Cox visited communities affected by the devastating tsunami in 2009, in which 143 people lost their lives and 5,000 lost their homes, and observed progress made on reconstruction activities conducted with World Bank assistance. After the tsunami, the Bank helped to finance the construction of 30 km of new access roads to villages relocating inland, rebuild seawalls and other infrastructure, and supported Samoa’s budget, which helped the Government to provide housing grants for those impacted by the disaster.
“The people I met today gave me a real sense of the absolute devastation they experienced from the tsunami and how hard they’ve worked to rebuild their lives, through their own efforts and with support from the Government and partners,” said Cox.“Samoa reminds us of the vulnerability of Pacific Island states to natural disasters, as well as food and fuel price spikes and the global economic slowdown – and how we can work together to overcome these difficulties.”
While in Samoa, shealso met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi to discuss the new World Bank Country Partnership Strategy, a first for Samoa, which focuses on building resilience against climate change, disasters and external shocks.
Increased support to Samoa reflects the growth in engagement by the World Bank Group across the Pacific. In the last five years, the World Bank has committed US$250 million in total to the region. This includes support for the telecoms revolution, which has given over one million more Pacific islanders access to mobile phones; and financed community infrastructure that has benefitted over 100,000 people, helping to improve the lives of the people of the Pacific Islands.
The trip to the Pacific, followed a visit to Australia and New Zealand, where Cox met with key Government and civil society officials.