Natural Hazard Risk
Samoa, a remote Pacific Island state, is exposed to many natural hazards, including droughts, earthquakes, floods, tropical storms, and volcanic eruptions, and. The primary hazards facing the islands are tropical storms and cyclones associated with destructive winds, rainfall, flooding, swells, storm surges, and potentially tornadoes. These events can cause significant damage to communities, infrastructure, and the economy. In December 2012, Tropical Cyclone Evan struck the country’s two primary islands, and caused about $204 million in damages and losses, equivalent to nearly 30 percent of the total value of goods and services Samoa produced in 2011, with transport and agriculture the most affected sectors.
The country is also vulnerable to earthquakes. In September 2009, a powerful 8.0 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of the main Samoan island chain and was followed shortly by two tsunami waves, with swells up to 11 meters that also impacted American Samoa and Tonga. These events caused economic impact to Samoa of about $124 million.
A small island state, Samoa is also vulnerable to the growing geographical, geological, and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. The country is already experiencing increased frequency and intensity in extreme weather and climate events.
Samoa has taken steps to strengthen disaster risk management (DRM). In 2007, the government passed an act supporting the management of disasters and emergencies in the country through enhanced planning, risk reduction, response, and recovery, as well as better coordination among relevant agencies. Additional policy measures have been taken, such as the Samoa National Action Plan for DRM 2011–2016. Institutionally, both DRM and climate change adaptation are integrated into the Ministry of Natural Resources, helping to streamline these efforts.
The government also has made strides in strengthening its financial resilience to natural hazard shocks, and participates in the GFDRR-supported Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) pilot program.
To advance its DRM agenda, Samoa is prioritizing:
- Country- and regional-level initiatives to strengthen resilience to climate change; and,
- Increasing the resilience of infrastructure to natural hazards and climate change.
After the 2009 earthquake and tsunami, GFDRR helped the government conduct a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA), in coordination with the World Bank, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and other partners. The assessment helped leverage $20 million from the World Bank to support rebuilding the tourism industry, with similar funding from ADB.
Following the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Evan in late 2012, GFDRR supported the government to conduct a PDNA. This assessment helped the government mobilize funding for recovery and reconstruction, including $40 million from the World Bank for projects that will provide recovery assistance to affected commercial fishers and farmers and strengthen the resilience of Samoa’s road infrastructure, among others. An additional $50 million was leveraged by ADB, European Union, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and others, to support recovery projects in the energy, water, tourism, and education sectors, among others.
GFDRR is also supporting Samoa’s participation in a regional program, with activities advancing climate and disaster resilience in infrastructure investments, including Samoa’s roads and schools. Support will also be offered for modernizing early warning and preparedness and for improving the post-disaster response capacity of participating Pacific Island countries. Additionally, Samoa has participated in a pooled catastrophe risk insurance pilot program under PCRAFI since 2013.
Looking ahead, GFDRR anticipates continued demand from the Government of Samoa on:
- Integrating risk considerations into existing and planned education sector investments;
- Modernizing early warning and preparedness systems;
- Mainstreaming disaster and climate resilience in spatial planning and sector investments;
- Exploring additional financial protection strategies; and,
- Strengthening climate resilience.