Statistics against Disasters


The following was presented to delegates to CRGA 48 in Nouméa end June 2018

In the last decade, people of the Pacific experienced a considerable number of damaging natural disasters. These have included tsunamis in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands; cyclones have affected almost every other island. When a disaster strikes, the first concern is for the people most affected; where are they located and how many households and individuals have been impacted; have they lost their shelter; have their food and water sources been damaged. There is therefore a high demand for population data in disaster risk management (DRM) and food security applications.

In one of the most recent and most damaging cyclones, TC Winston, that hit Fiji early in 2016, the Statistics for Development Division (SDD) working with the Geoscience, Energy and Maritime (GEM) Division were able to produce a map of the most-affected population just three days after the cyclone struck, see the map.


Maps like this provide essential information to enable emergency and relief services to focus on those areas with the most affected populations. However, in order to produce such maps for DRM, there needs to be good quality data and updated population datasets.

Coastal population data maps are also important for the management of inshore fish resources, and for monitoring the food security situation of these populations. Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that show the populations living in costal buffer zones i.e. those living on the coast or up to 1km inland, those who are within 5km – walking distance – of the coast, and those who are “inland” or more than 5km from the coast. Across the region, approximately 26% of Pacific people live within 1km of coast, 45% within 5km, 54% within 10km; excluding PNG these proportions become 57% within 1km of the coast, 90% within 5km, and 97% within 10km. More information on the coastal mapping project and other innovative projects being undertaken by SDD can be found at

The use of hand-help GPS to identify and map individual households, supported by Computer Assisted Personal-Interviewing (CAPI) methodologies using tablet computers, have enabled the Statistics for Development Division of the Pacific Community to assist governments in significantly improving the quality and accuracy of their household and population data. The visualisation of this data using GIS mapping is opening a new way for Pacific governments, policy-makers, students and researchers to “see” and understand the great potential for the use of statistics in development.

David Abbott, Manager, Data Analysis and Dissemination, Statistics for Development Division, Pacific Community (SPC), [email protected]