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The people of the Solomon Islands live on a chain of islands to the south-east of Papua New Guinea. The terrain is mostly volcanic, mountainous and heavily forested with some low coral atolls. Over 80 percent of the population live in rural areas and are dependent upon subsistence agriculture and fishing.
Recent conflicts have made the country unstable and disrupted education, services and business. Key concerns for the country are to restore law and order, support economic recovery and growth and to address basic social needs.
Independent since 1978, the Solomon Islands has experienced much civil unrest in recent years. Conflict broke out in 1998 between rival groups from Guadalcanal and Malaita over the distribution of land, resources and economic opportunities. The dispute left hundreds dead; tens of thousands of people displaced and crippled the government and economy.
In June 2000, Malaitan militants and elements of the police force staged an attempted coup, forcing Prime Minister Bart Ulufa’alu to resign.
The Townsville Peace Agreement in October 2000 failed to end the violence. In 2003, following a request by Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), led by Australia, was deployed to restore law and order.
Economy and development
Over 75 percent of the population is employed in subsistence agriculture or fishing and the average monthly wage is NZ$140. Solomon Islands has a young population, with nearly 50 percent of people under the age of 15. High population growth rates and migration to urban areas are continuing to place pressure on infrastructure and increase the demand for water, sanitation, housing, education and health services. Education services in particular have been seriously disrupted. The literacy rate is low and access to primary and secondary education is limited compared with other Pacific countries. Only 70 percent of school aged children attend primary school and even fewer complete their education.
Stats and facts
- Region: Melanesia
- Capital: Honiara
- Population: 538,032
- GDP per capita: US$1,365.9. By comparison, New Zealand is US$27,384.4
- Language: English (official), Melanesian dialects
- Religion: Christianity
- Adult literacy: 77 percent
- Life expectancy: 62 years
- Government: Parliamentary democracy
- Access to safe water: 70 percent