Analysing Resilience: Disaster Response and Recovery in the Solomon Islands

Hagen, Kimberley (2015). Analysing Resilience: Disaster Response and Recovery in the Solomon Islands. PhD thesis The Open University.



In April 2007 an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 occurred in the Solomon Islands. Within minutes tsunami waves hit several islands, causing death and destruction. This thesis examines how four ethnically diverse communities on Ghizo Island responded to and recovered from these disastrous events. Referred to as processes of disaster management, response and recovery are analysed with the aim of providing insight into community resilience to the 2007 disasters and into changes in the communities' indicators of disaster resilience in the aftermath of the events. By doing so, this thesis addresses the following research question: 'In the aftermath of the 2007 Solomon Islands earthquake and tsunamis, how have disaster management processes informed community resilience?'

This thesis makes three main claims. First, when looking at the reaction and coping mechanisms of the affected communities, the Melanesian inhabitants of Ghizo were more resilient than the Gilbertese communities who migrated to the Solomon Islands in the mid-20th century. The relative strength of the diversity of their culturally-embedded livelihood activities played a prominent role in this. Second, it shows that although humanitarian aid should be largely concerned with a timely and efficient delivery of emergency items, the local context should play a prominent role in the design and execution of aid interventions aimed at recovery. Failing to do so may negatively impact affected communities' socio-cultural long-term recovery. This introduces the third claim: affected communities' indicators of resilience change in a post-disaster setting. Actively initiated changes in cultural practices with the aim of increasing resilience are part of this, as well as the long-term decline in intra-community cohesion related to conflict over aid. This thesis demonstrates how research in the aftermath of disasters can provide valuable information on resilience and cultural change, related to both the physical event and subsequent aid interventions.

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