Fostering climate security and disaster readiness through community radio in Tuvalu

November 2, 2022

Community members receiving the hand crank radio.

Photo: UNDP

On 21 October 1972, Hurricane Bebe hit the small island nation of Tuvalu, significantly affecting the capital Funafuti. A storm surge swept over the atoll island, causing the death of six people, destroying houses and leaving hundreds homeless.

On Hurricane Bebe’s 50th anniversary (21 October 2022), the Tuvalu Climate Change Department, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – International Organization for Migration (IOM) Climate Security in the Pacific project, distributed 300 hand crank radios to assist communities and households to stay informed and take early actions during times of climate emergencies.

Funafuti Island Chief Mr. Siose P Teo receiving the hand crank radios for each of the clan leaders [matai] of his island community from Tuvalu Climate Change Department Director Pepetua Pel Latasi.

Photo: UNDP

Some of the radios were donated to the local leaders of the eight island communities in Funafuti, who would distribute them to vulnerable people in their communities, particularly persons with disabilities and elders. The remaining radios will be distributed to the households of Nui Island, where the project is also implementing a pilot initiative to address food security and prevent conflicts over resources caused by climate change.

Local leaders receiving the hand crank radios from UNDP staff

For those at the forefront of the climate crisis like the people of Tuvalu, there has never been a greater need for accurate and verified information.

In Tuvalu, radio remains one of the most trusted media and the main tool that allows people, especially from outer and remote island communities, to keep informed on weather reports, and learn about local and international news and upcoming events. In times of climate emergencies, such as cyclones and other extreme-weather events, it plays a critical role in emergency communication and disaster preparedness and relief, delivering life-saving information to remote communities.

While digital access to information remains unequal, with huge differences between countries, regions and communities, radio is an affordable tool that can be listened to everywhere, even when electricity or connectivity is not reliable. Moreover, community radio is inclusive and can reach out to those under-represented in the mainstream and social media, who may feel better understood and fairly portrayed and consequently trust their local station.

In addition to disaster preparedness and emergencies, radio is also uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster dialogue on climate change, including its implications on well-being and human security. Together with the distribution of the radios, the project has facilitated the development and airing of a community radio program to highlight the climate-related security risks faced by the people of Tuvalu, as well as the Government efforts to address those risks. Covering in-depth discussions and insights on a wide range of climate-related security risks, including climate-induced relocation, loss and damage, health, food and water insecurity and impact on maritime zone and boundaries, the radio program aims at increasing the understanding and awareness of climate-related security risks.

By providing accurate information and data and deepening the understanding of how, when, and why climate security and disaster-related risks arise, the radio program seeks to accelerate conversations on practical actions on climate security and risk management, thereby providing an inclusive approach to long-term sustainable peace and resilience.