Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Approves $1 Million For RMI Drought
MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, June 21, 2013) – In response to the drought disaster in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, approved a rapid response grant of US$1 million on June 18, 2013. This grant, implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will assist the Government in its response efforts as outlined in the Government’s $4.7 million Immediate- and Near-term Drought Response Plan.
Managed by IOM, the grant is to be implemented within six months with a strong focus on logistical support, water, sanitation and hygiene needs in accordance with the RMI Drought Response Plan. Mr. Ostby announced, “In addition to other valuable contributions, the CERF grant will help fund immediate and critical needs outlined by the Government, however, let this drought serve as a reminder to us all that we must continue to work toward more resilient Pacific community in the recovery phase to follow”.
The Response Plan calls for large scale deployment of air and sea assets with immediate relief supplies, such as water and food, to the affected northern atolls in order to meet minimum humanitarian standards. Other activities include increasing rain water catchment capacity, deployment and servicing of desalination units, re-planting crops, improved health surveillance and outreach, and repair of water supply systems.
Following persistently low rainfall during the dry season, the Marshall Islands Government declared a state of emergency for the northern atolls of the Republic on 19 April. On 7 May, the Marshall Islands Government declared an elevated state of drought disaster, as the situation worsened. A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team with members flown in from Fiji, Japan, Sweden, and Thailand was deployed for over three weeks to support the national Emergency Operations Center in Majuro. Early support was provided by USAID and IOM followed by contributions from ADB, AusAID, JICA, NZAID, Red Cross movement, OCHA, UNICEF and WHO.
The humanitarian needs for the 6,384 people living on the affected islands and atolls remain urgent. The most pressing needs are for access to safe water and the growing need for food. The drought conditions have depleted water tanks and made groundwater unsuitable for human consumption due to high salinity. In addition, the drought has damaged or destroyed local food crops, including breadfruit and banana, and populations are relying on fish, crabs, and other coastal food resources.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), dry weather will continue for the next few weeks. A few brief trade-wind showers will develop at times.