Health in Tuvalu

General information

Tuvalu, formerly the Ellice Islands, is a group of atolls lying south of the equator in the western Pacific Ocean, south of Kiribati and north of Fiji. Funafuti, the main island and capital, lies 1,046 km north of Suva, Fiji. The other islands are Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niulakita, Niutao, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu.

Climate

The mean annual temperature is 30°C, with little seasonal variation, though March to October tends to be cooler.
Humidity is high. Trade winds blow from the east for much of the year. Although the islands are north of the recognised hurricane belt, severe cyclones struck in 1894, 1972 and 1990. Rainfall is high, averaging 3,535 mm p.a. The wettest season is November to February.

Environment

There are no streams or rivers in the country and ground water is not safe to drink; water needs are met by catchment of rainwater and, increasingly, by desalination. The Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build another. Some 40 per cent of the island of Funafuti was severely damaged during World War II and is virtually uninhabitable. Other significant environmental issues are beachhead erosion because of the removal of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel;
damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; and rising sea levels threatening the underground water table.

Population

10,000 (2012). The population density on inhabited islands is very high, especially on Funafuti; 51 per cent of people live in urban areas. The population growth rate stood at 0.4 per cent p.a. between 1990 and 2012. In 2012 the birth rate was estimated at 23 per 1,000 people and life expectancy was estimated as 65 years.
In February 2000, a request was made to New Zealand for resettlement of about a third of Tuvalu’s population, which was threatened by rising sea levels.
The Tuvaluans are a Polynesian people.

Economy

Tuvalu is classified as an upper-middle-income economy by the World Bank.

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