78 dengue fever cases reported in Cook Islands
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 16 August 2019
“Seventy-eight dengue cases have been reported in Cook Islands since the outbreak began early in the year.
“The Cook Islands News reports the Ministry of Health saying 22 were confirmed cases while 56 have been deemed probable positives.
“The dengue outbreak was officially declared in late February following a New Zealand laboratory test confirmation of seven type 1 cases.
“A ministry situation report says Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the only islands affected - most of the cases are from Rarotonga.
“The report says Aitutaki has managed to contain its number of cases to three. The last case was reported on 18 April.
“The age range of the victims is from three to 79 years old.
“A dengue awareness campaign is underway this week, with inspections around Rarotonga.”
Copyright © 2019, Radio New Zealand.
16 August 2019
Pacific Islands leaders leave the Tuvalu summit with a bitter taste.
Jamie Tahana, Radio New Zealand’s correspondent covering the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu filed this report today.
“Pacific Islands leaders know all about compromise, and we’re not expecting miracles, but they will still come away from the Pacific Forum summit with a bitter taste in their mouths.
“A meeting of the Pacific region's 18 presidents, prime ministers and premiers stretched late into the night on Thursday, with Australia and other countries distancing themselves from strong language that called for urgent action to tackle climate change.
“After a marathon twelve hour meeting, the leaders retreat ended in confusion, with hurried news conferences held before the final statements were released.
"Everybody was working, trying their best," said Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, as other leaders left in a motorcade behind him. "Leaders were shedding tears in there, can you believe it? So I'm very, very happy."
"I would say it was very fierce and very frank," said Vanuatu's foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu of the retreat. "Everybody had to shift their positions, it was twice when it was like 'okay this isn't going to happen, this isn't going to be a joint declaration' and the meeting had to regroup to make sure forum leaders stayed inside the tent."
“In the end, leaders agreed to a communiqué and a separate statement on climate change. The main communiqué endorsed - with qualification - a declaration from the small island states, which was released on Tuesday.
“That declaration - which was backed by the region's nine smallest countries, including Tuvalu - declared a climate crisis, called for an immediate phase out of coal, a commitment to reducing emissions to 1.5 degrees, and the replenishment of the UN's Green Climate Fund.
“The small island states took that to the meeting of the full forum, but the qualification means that not every country could agree.
“Mr Sopoaga said Australia was a country that qualified, again pitting its climate stance against those of the Pacific nations. Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison refused to be drawn on that, saying, it's not incumbent on any member state to endorse that statement, it's a statement of the small Pacific states.
“But several other nations also knocked it back, among them New Zealand and Vanuatu.
"We were being asked to endorse a statement we had not read," said Mr Regenvanu.
“Still, Australia's stance on climate issues remains a bone of contention for the Pacific states, with representatives telling RNZ Pacific on Thursday night that Australia largely stood alone on the issue at the talks, that often times got heated.
“However, Australia did back a separate climate change statement attached to the communiqué, the Funafuti Declaration for Urgent Climate Action, which committed countries to working in solidarity to combat climate change.
“It also addressed climate financing, a commitment to phase out reliance on fossil fuels, and pledged to try and meet a target of 1.5 degrees, although its wording was more vague than that released by the small island states on Tuesday.
“All references to coal were scrubbed out, though references to a climate "crisis" remained. Mr Regenvanu said agreement on "crisis" was achieved because it referenced a crisis in the Pacific Island States, not the Blue Pacific, the Forum's jargon to describe the region including Australia.
"Here in the Pacific in particular, and in Pacific Island nations, the impact of climate change ... isn't theory, it's real. It's happening to them right now and has been for some time," Mr Morrison said. "[These documents] set out our collective commitment to address these issues."
“Mr Regenvanu described it as a remarkable concession.
"There's reference to 1.5 degrees throughout, there's reference to the IPCC report throughout, there's reference to strategies to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, there's reference to eliminating inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, there's reference to just transition away from fossil fuels," he said.
"So most of the key language we want to be included that has not been included in the past is there."
“However, he added there were several "red lines" that Australia couldn't bring itself to back, including references to coal, announcing a net zero emissions strategy for 2050 by next year, and any target below 1.5 degrees, Mr Regenvanu said.
“For other countries, the communiqué was far from enough, especially for the prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, attending his first forum meeting in more than a decade.
"We came together in a nation that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately, we settled for the status quo in our communiqué," he said in a post on Twitter. "Watered-down climate language has real consequences -- like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds."
“That was shared by the opposition leader of the Solomon Islands, Matthew Wale, who said "what a missed opportunity to really 'step up.' 'family' has been exploited for domestic Australian politics.
"Pacific islanders were hoping for sincerity when we hear 'we're family.' We were mistaken," he wrote.
“On Friday morning, Mr Sopoaga struck a more diplomatic note as he sat side-by-side with Mr Morrison.
"I think the outcome is a very good outcome, it's probably the best outcome given the context and circumstances," he said.
“Later on, he added: "we had very, very open discussions with the prime minister of Australia."
"We expressed very strongly during our exchange, in fact, between me and Scott. I said you are concerned about saving your economy and situation in Australia, I'm concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu."
“Other items agreed to include the creation of a Pacific Resilience Facility, to be based in Samoa; the drafting of a plan to guide the Forum countries through the next 50 years; nuclear issues, the negotiation of maritime boundaries and the clean-up of old wrecks.
“Still, Mr Sopoaga had hoped this forum would be the one to unite all sides on the issue of climate change, which threatens his country more than most. At the news conference, he showed flashes of disappointment.
"I think we could say we should have done more for our people," he said.
16 August 2019
Disagreement over climate change action at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.
As was largely predicted would happen, a lengthy meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders has ended with disagreement over action against climate change.
A detailed news release from Radio New Zealand today said:
“The leaders of the 18-member countries and territories met for 12 hours in Tuvalu yesterday, with a communiqué and separate statement on climate change finally released after midnight.
“The document, released after midnight, includes what's titled the 'Funafuti Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now'.
“The main communiqué endorsed a declaration from the small island states calling for a commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an immediate phase out of coal, and contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund.
“But there was one qualification, which Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said related to Australia.
"Australia is an important partner in the Forum, and Australia is an important part of the Forum family, likewise everybody else - New Zealand and other countries. So, we tried our best."
“It's understood Australia had pushed for the wording on climate change to be watered down.
“Mr Sopoaga took a subtle swipe at Australia, while praising New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's support of small island leaders during the negotiations.
"New Zealand was very constructive in its contribution and I think the prime minister was very contributing to a lot of things progressive, perhaps more than other people."
“However, Australia did endorse the separate statement urging greater action on climate change.
“Meanwhile, Australia's Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, says Prime Minister Morrison is undermining vital relationships and trust in the Pacific.”
16 August 2019
Heads of maritime forces discuss the threat illicit drugs and the challenges of climate change in the Pacific region.
The growing threat of the illicit drug trade and the challenges of climate change in the region was the focus of heads of maritime forces meeting in Fiji this week.
The Commander of the Fiji Navy, Humphrey Tawake, said the meeting was an opportunity for regional operators in maritime security - in particular the small island states - to have a voice and share their ideas and challenges.
Commodore Tawake said it was important all stakeholders to work together to make the Pacific safe - from sharing information and resources to training and technologies.
"So, it is for us in border security and maritime security to work together," he said.
"Collectively we are stronger than an individual organisation trying to tackle the problem or the issue alone.
"It's about strengthening relationships.
"The best thing that we can do is try and disrupt all these illegal activities that's happening around us," he said.
Fiji's Acting Defence Minister, Jone Usamate, said while the increase in sea transportation services benefited Fijians, it was being exploited and used for crime and the illegal drug trade.
Mr Usamate, who opened the meeting, said maritime security had become a major concern for Pacific Island countries.
"It has developed or shifted maritime security perspectives to face non-military threats such as jurisdictional disputes, transnational-organized crimes which include trafficking of small arms, illegal movement of people and drugs."
He said it had also highlighted the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and piracy in the region.
Mr Usamate said the challenges of climate change could be managed individually by sovereign states and collaboratively as a region to minimise its impact.
He said the professional insights of the delegates on regional oceans governance, climate change and maritime security would improve the Pacific's ability to protect its seas.
"I thought this was only going to be about maritime affairs and security. But apparently, it's a more holistic look at the oceans," he said.
"And what we need to do collaboratively to look after these oceans and in turn, look after the lives and the welfare of the people that we have in the Pacific."
Source, and quoting Radio New Zealand.
Sexual health services vital for rural Vanuatu women – report
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 15 August 2019
“Improved sex education and better access to health services are key to reproductive health for Vanuatu's rural communities according to a new report.
“The report by Family Planning New Zealand called Planem Gud Famili Blong Yumi was released this week in Vanuatu and New Zealand.
“Researchers interviewed villagers in the Big Bay Bush area of Espiritu Santo about their sexual health needs.
“New Zealand Family Planning researcher Kate Burry says many women spoke of a lack of personal choice, deferring decisions about sex to their partner or wider family.
"However sometimes it was more coercive, more kind of leading in to intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Which was a massive, very significant finding as well, and a significant barrier," Kate Burry said.
“Work to implement the report's recommendations is supported by the governments of New Zealand and Vanuatu.”
Copyright @ 2019, Radio New Zealand.