The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

July 14, 2014

Island of Niue hit by exodus

ALOFI, Niue — It was a school once, but there are no children here anymore. The lonely building on this remote Pacific island now contains only a punching bag that someone has strung from the classroom rafters, and a note scrawled on the chalkboard in Niuean: “Keep this place clean,” it says, “so it stays beautiful.”

While much of the world worries about how it will accommodate rapidly growing populations, some islands in the Pacific face the opposite dilemma: how to stop everybody from leaving.

The population decline on Niue, a lush coral atoll about the size of Baltimore, has been steady and relentless. In the 1960s, there were more than 5,000 people living here; today, there are fewer than 1,600. Fifteen times as many Niueans, some 24,000, now live across the ocean in New Zealand, 1,500 miles away.

The stories, songs and language that developed into the Niuean culture over more than 1,000 years are at risk of vanishing.

Speedo Hetutu, 54, attended the old school in the town of Avatele before it was abandoned and later used for workouts. There used to be six primary schools on the island; now there is only one. Other buildings where people used to work, pray or live now sit empty and in disrepair.

“People wanted to go away to look for a better life,” Hetutu says. “People are still searching.”

Other Pacific islands face similar struggles. The CIA estimates the population of the Cook Islands is declining by 3 percent per year, a rate second only to war-torn Syria.

Tokelau and American Samoa are also losing significant numbers of people. Even on archipelagos like Samoa and Tonga where the population is steady, people are abandoning the outer islands and moving to the main towns, where they can find better jobs, education and health care.

The exodus from Niue has been particularly acute because of its connection with New Zealand. Niue is self-governing but in free association with its wealthier neighbor to the south, and Niueans are automatically New Zealand citizens.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Be ready for ‘prolonged’ Gaza war, prime minister says

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Signaling an escalation of Israel’s Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a “prolonged” war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Deal to improve health care costs $17B

    WASHINGTON — A bipartisan deal announced Monday would authorize about $17 billion to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat veterans and make it easier to fire executives at the Department of ...

    July 29, 2014

  • FedEx charges raising online pharmacy issues

    SAN FRANCISCO — FedEx Corp., the latest company accused in a federal probe involving illegal online pharmacies, says it will fight the charges that it knowingly shipped drugs to people who lack valid prescriptions....

    July 27, 2014

  • EU, U.S. seek to curb Putin’s Ukraine course

    BRUSSELS — Months after Russia annexed Crimea and stepped up support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe and the United States are still searching for a way to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course....

    July 27, 2014

  • Fighting intense near crash

    DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month....

    July 27, 2014

  • Gaza war rages despite truce pledges

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday....

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas fires rockets on Israel, ending 12-hour lull

    BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Death shows Ebola can spread through air travel

    ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world’s deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 21 million people. The fact ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Police ID kids killed in Philly carjacking crash

    PHILADELPHIA — Two carjackers who fled after ramming a stolen SUV into a family selling fruit for their church, killing three young siblings, were still on the run Saturday as the reward for their capture topped $100,000. The children’s ...

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border

    KIEV, Ukraine — Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the ...

    July 26, 2014