Australia responds to Tuvalu water crisis

Media release

10 October 2011

Australia is helping to provide water to the drought-stricken people of Tuvalu following the declaration of a state of emergency on 28 September 2011.

Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles has spoken to the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Willy Telavi, and offered Australia’s assistance.

'I made it clear that Australia will stand by Tuvalu and do whatever is necessary to avert any humanitarian crisis,' said Mr Marles.

As part of Australia’s assistance, an Australian Defence Force C17 Globemaster, with ADF and AusAID personnel, will help fly a large desalination unit to Tuvalu, capable of turning 50,000 litres of sea water a day into clean drinking water.

'The unit will be flown from New Zealand to Samoa on Monday, 10 October,' Mr Marles said.

'From there, the New Zealand Defence Force will transfer the unit to Tuvalu’s main island of Funafuti.'

The Australian-provided Tuvalu patrol boat, Te Mataili, has also delivered a portable desalination plant, provided by the International Federation of Red Cross, to the island of Nukulaelae.

Together, these units will meet the urgent water needs of the people of Tuvalu.

Australia is also:

  • working with authorities in Tuvalu to have existing desalination units on Funafuti and Nanumanga Islands in full operation.
  • providing fuel for Tuvalu’s patrol boat, Te Mataili, which was supplied by Australia and maintained with support from Australia, so the Tuvalu Government can assess the water, health and food needs of people across Tuvalu’s remote islands.
  • replenishing stocks used by the Tuvalu Red Cross, including water containers, hand sanitisers and other goods, to respond to the crisis.

Australian support is already building resilience and increasing disaster preparedness in Tuvalu.

In 2010, Australia funded the construction of 607 large rainwater tanks for homes in the capital Funafuti which allow storage of nine million extra litres of rainwater. In 2011 Australia also supported the purchase of 150 rainwater tanks (10,000L each) for all primary schools and the two major secondary schools in Tuvalu.

Weather forecasts indicate that the chance of rain is low. Without further rainfall, the situation is likely to deteriorate. Australia will continue to assess the situation to determine what further assistance is needed.

Media enquiries

  • Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555
  • AusAID Media: 0417 680 590