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Results BriefsApril 23, 2024

Keeping Communities Connected in Small Island Developing States

Climate Resilient Transport Infrastructure in the Pacific | Building Beyond Tomorrow

Since 2014, the World Bank has supported resilient transport projects in 20 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) across Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, benefiting 3 million people. These projects have provided enhanced access to transportation by upgrading vital infrastructure including roads, maritime facilities, and airports. Such enhancements are particularly important in mitigating the effects of extreme weather events ensuring continued access to healthcare, education, tourism, and employment, and are vital for sustaining connectivity and economic activity. Over the next five to seven years, an additional 5 million people are expected to benefit from similar infrastructure improvements. These investments aim to serve the entire population in these countries, ensuring inclusion and resilience for residents of both main and outer islands.

Key Achievements

  • As of 2023, 3 million people in 20 SIDS are benefiting from enhanced access to transportation services through more resilient infrastructure supported by World Bank financed projects over the past 10 years. Ongoing support is expected to extend benefits to an additional 5 million people in the next five to seven years.
  • Across all supported SIDS, since 2013, over 1,000 kilometers (km) of roads, over 200 water crossings, five maritime sites (i.e., ports, wharves, or jetties), and 12 airports have been made more resilient to severe weather events and climate change, aiming to help keep communities connected to essential services and infrastructure.
  • In Samoa, the entire population is benefiting from enhanced access to transport services through World Bank-supported projects implemented between 2013 and 2022.
  • In Haiti, 475 km of roads and eight critical bridges have been rehabilitated since 2018, improving the access of over 400,000 rural people to climate resilient roads.
  • In São Tomé and Príncipe, half of the population is benefiting from enhanced transportation due to the rehabilitation of 13 km of national roads since 2019.  
When the wharf was completely destroyed… the big ship was not able to come over to the wharf. We [relied on] small boats to go get our stuff from the big ferry. Not only was it very hard; it was very dangerous.
Beneficiary photo: Aloine Havea
’Aloine Havea
Mother of five and business owner on ’Eua island, Tonga


Home to around 65 million people, SIDS face social, economic, and environmental challenges due to their relatively small population and size, and their geographic dispersion and/or remoteness. SIDS are also among the most exposed and vulnerable countries to natural hazards, and climate change will exacerbate the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Sea level rise, severe storms, and changing weather patterns pose significant risks, threatening displacement, coastline erosion, and the destruction of natural protective barriers. These threats underscore the need for strong, resilient infrastructure, which is crucial for SIDS’ socio-economic development—especially as transport infrastructure and population are concentrated along coastlines.


The World Bank innovates in SIDS by helping them address the challenges of small populations, remoteness, and dispersion through enhanced connectivity—both physically (e.g., through investment in transport networks) and virtually (e.g., through support to the information and communications technology sector). Keeping SIDS connected requires establishing and maintaining resilient transport systems by helping governments identify critical transport assets, such as roads, bridges, airports, and ports; and thereafter helping retrofit or replace these assets as needed, and adopt improved maintenance and operational practices to make them less susceptible to damage from natural hazards. Resilient infrastructure that can withstand extreme events not only saves lives, but also mitigates economic losses, giving governments and communities confidence to pursue their strategic development goals. The World Bank supports governments to complement investments in civil works with technical assistance. This includes the development of design standards to ensure transport networks are more resilient to increasingly severe weather events, along with providing state-of-the-art planning tools and strategies that can be used by governments to take charge of their futures.

We were living with a lot of changes to climate change… When the wave came along, the wave came here … [it] pulled in all the stones from the road … and the road was broken. But the [new] sea wall is a good protection for us … doing that sea wall really saved us.
Beneficiary photo - Setu Timoteo
Setu Timoteo
Business owner, father of three and business owner on Upolu, Samoa


Across 20 SIDS in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, an estimated 3 million people have benefited from World Bank transport projects between 2013 and 2023, and an additional 5 million more people are expected to benefit by 2030. Results achieved span a range of infrastructure improvements and resilience-building exercises—improving and extending roads and bridges, aviation, and maritime infrastructure—with the following examples illustrating a diversity of approaches tailored to the particular needs of a diverse group of states.

In Samoa, the World Bank-supported Enhanced Road Access Project, implemented between 2013 and 2022,  and Enhancing the Climate Resilience of the West Coast Road Project, implemented between 2012 and 2020, have provided enhanced access to transport services for the entire population through the upgrade of over 16 km of primary roads and five water crossings to high levels of climate resilience. During severe weather events, businesses in the impacted areas can now operate with fewer disruptions, children miss less school, and the sick or injured can access hospitals more easily and safely.

The Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program is upgrading vital transport infrastructure to help make communities more resilient to extreme weather events and climate change. While many of the projects are in the early stages of implementation, in 2022 Tonga upgraded two wharves to elevated levels of climate resilience, and in 2023 Samoa upgraded seven km of primary roads and Tonga upgraded an airport, providing elevated levels of climate resilience for this key infrastructure. By 2028, an additional 140+ km of roads and six maritime sites will be made more resilient across the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Approximately 45 percent of the population (380,000 people) across the six countries are expected to benefit from greater access to transport services.

In Haiti, the Rural Accessibility & Resilience Project, implemented since 2018, has led to a 27 percent increase in the access of the rural population to all-weather roads that connect them to essential services, through the rehabilitation of 475 km of the tertiary and rural road network. This has provided an additional 71,500 rural women with access to obstetrical and emergency health facilities within 60 minutes and an additional 195,000 people with access to regional size markets within 120 minutes. Prior to the project, most of these networks were in very poor condition and barely trafficable, rendering several regions totally isolated for days at a time during the rainy season and following major storms and hurricanes. In addition, World Bank support has benefited over 400,000 people by strengthening the resilience of the primary and secondary road network to climate change and extreme weather events through the rehabilitation of eight critical bridges and 124 critical spots and segments on the network. 

In São Tomé and Príncipe the Transport Sector Development and Coastal Protection Project, approved in 2019 and currently under implementation, is supporting the country’s capacity to manage road assets in a climate resilient manner. Over 13 km of national roads have been made resilient to climate and disaster risk through rehabilitation works, providing access to enhanced transportation for almost 50 percent of the population. With support from the World Bank, a national road climate resilience strategy has also been developed to identify critical road assets and prioritize investment. By 2030, an additional 17 km of national roads will be made resilient to climate risks. Moreover, community-based organizations will be employed to conduct road maintenance with a climate resilience focus, while providing sustainable employment opportunities to women and men throughout the country.

As I was growing up as a local girl here, I’ve seen … international contractors working major projects like this. But as of now, we’ve been given the opportunity. [Now] we’re able to spend money here in the community. We also share what we have: the skills, the finances… hiring local staff members, operators and all that.
Beneficiary photo: Jean Malupo Veilofia
Jean Malupo Veilofia
Owner/operator of ’Ahononou & Petani Quarry, a local construction firm delivering Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program (PCRTP) funded works on ’Eua island, Tonga

Data Highlights

Between 2014 and 2023, 85 percent of the World Bank funding for resilient transport projects in SIDS has been directed towards the roads and aviation sectors. The remaining funds supported maritime or multisectoral projects.  From a regional perspective, the Pacific Islands have the largest share of resilient transport projects in SIDS, followed by the Caribbean and Africa.

Chart: World Bank to Resilient Transport Projects by sector

World Bank Group Contribution

From July 2013 through June 2023, World Bank support to resilient transport projects in SIDS totaled $2.01 billion across 20 SIDS, with $1.79 billion funded by the International Development Association (IDA), about $120 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and about $100 million from World Bank-administered trust fund financing provided by the governments of Australia and the Netherlands. This financing supports a combination of infrastructure investments and capacity building activities.


The World Bank engages with development partners to enhance the resilience of SIDS’ transport networks through the development and knowledge sharing of analytical work, capacity building events and training, and policy and investment coordination. The Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the government of Australia, the government of the Netherlands, and the government of New Zealand have co-financed recent projects.

Looking Ahead

Over the next five to seven years, the World Bank expects significant growth in its support to resilience building, with upgraded critical transport infrastructure projected to reach approximately 1,900 km of roads, as well as over 400 water crossings, 26 airports, and 29 maritime sites.

A next generation of regional resilient transport projects is set to build upon lessons learned from ongoing and recently completed projects, harness partnerships, and promote economies of scale. For example, the expansion of the Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program into a broader Pacific Infrastructure Connectivity Sustainability and Resilience multi-phase program aims to address the remaining transport resilience challenges in the region and apply successful approaches to additional infrastructure areas, including energy and digital development.