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Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific which won independence from the United Kingdom in 1978.
Five of the islands are coral atolls, the other four consist of land rising from the sea bed.
Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, all are low-lying, with no point on Tuvalu being higher than 4.5m above sea level. Local politicians have campaigned against climate change, arguing that it could see the islands swamped by rising sea levels.
Life on the islands is simple and often harsh. There are no streams or rivers, so the collection of rain is essential.
Coconut palms cover most of the islands, and copra – dried coconut kernel – is practically the only export commodity. Increasing salination of the soil threatens traditional subsistence farming.
Tuvalu has shown ingenuity by exploiting another source of income. It has sold its internet suffix – .tv – to a Californian company for several million dollars a year in continuing revenue. The company sells the suffix on to television broadcasters.
- Capital: Funafuti
- Population 11,200
- Area 26 sq km (10 sq miles)
- Major languagesTuvaluan, English
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 62 years (men), 65 years (women)
- Currency Tuvaluan dollar