Tuvalu is an island group of 5 atolls (coral islands consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon) and 4 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It is located midway between Australia and Hawaii. The island chain stretches some 676 kilometers (420 miles) from the southern island of Niulakita to the northern-most island of Nanumea and covers 757,000 square kilometers (292,278 square miles) of ocean, but it has a total land area of only 26 square kilometers (10 square miles), including 24 kilometers (15 miles) of coastline. Tuvalu's land area is one-tenth the size of the city of Washington, D.C., making it one of the smallest nations in the world. Funafuti, the capital and largest city, is located on the islet of Fongafale in the Funafuti Atoll. The nation's largest island is Vaitupu at 4.9 square kilometers (1.89 square miles) and the smallest is Niulakita at 0.41 square kilometers (0.16 square miles). All of Tuvalu is less than 4.5 meters (15 feet) above sea-level. Due to environmental factors such as rising ocean levels and soil erosion, Tuvalu is slowly shrinking in land mass at a rate of 2 millimeters per year. It is expected that some time in the future Tuvalu will be entirely underwater.


The population of Tuvalu was estimated at 10,838 in July of 2000, up from 8,229 in 1985 and 9,043 in 1991. The current annual population growth rate is 1.41 percent, which would result in a population of 12,600 by 2010. However, the loss of island territory has spurred many Tuvaluans to abandon their homes to start over in New Zealand, a population shift that is certain to become more pronounced as the islands gradually disappear underwater. New Zealand has agreed to take in the entire Tuvaluan population as "environmental refugees" at a rate of 60 people per year. The birth rate is 21.78 births per 1,000 population or 3.11 children born per woman. The death rate is 7.66 deaths per 1,000 population.

Most Tuvaluans are young. Some 34 percent of the population is younger than age 15, while just 5 percent is over age 65. Most Tuvaluans are ethnically Polynesian

(96 percent), but the inhabitants of the island of Nui are Micronesian. The population is mainly urban and more than half live on the islet of Fongafale. This has led to a high population density in the area. Partially because of sanitation problems caused by the lack of fresh water, Tuvalu has a high infant mortality rate (23.3 deaths per 1,000 live births).


Industry in Tuvalu is quite limited. Copra production is the main industry and provides the nation with its main export. In addition, about 600 Tuvaluans are employed by foreign firms on merchant ships and 750 are employed in the phosphate mines of Nauru. Many families are supported by the remittances from these 2 groups. There is some local manufacture of handcrafts, clothing, and footwear for tourists and for export.


Tuvalu has no territories or colonies.


Icon Group. Strategic Assessment of Tuvalu, 2000. San Diego: Icon Group, 2000.

Kelly, Robert C., Stanton Doyle, and N. Denise Youngblood. Country Review: Tuvalu, 1999/2000. Houston: CountryWatch.com , 2000.

Laracy, Hugh, ed. Tuvalu: A History. Suva, Fiji: University of South Pacific, 1983.

Pacific Island Business Network. "Tuvalu: Country Profile." <http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/pibn/countries/tuvalu.htm> . Accessed December 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2000: Tuvalu. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html> . Accessed February 2000.

U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Tuvalu. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/99hrp_toc.html> . Accessed February 2000.

—Tom Lansford




Tuvaluan dollar (T$). There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents, and 1 dollar. One Tuvaluan dollar equals 100 cents. The currency is tied to the Australian dollar at an exchange rate of 1 Tuvaluan dollar per 1 Australian dollar.


Copra, clothing, footwear.


Food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods.


US$7.8 million (1995 est.).


Exports: US$165,000 (f.o.b., 1989). Imports: US$4.4 million (c.i.f., 1989).

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