Immediate and Near-Term Response Plan for the Republic of the Marshall Islands Drought

Report
from Government of the Marshall Islands
Published on 31 May 2013
  1. Executive Summary

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is made up of 1,200 islands, islets and atolls with a land area of 180 square kilometers. The group is spread in two formations, with the eastern groups known as the Ratak ("Sunrise") chain and the Western groups the Ralik ("Sunset") chain

  • Following persistently low rainfall during the dry season, the Republic of the Marshall Islands declared a state of emergency for the Northern Marshall atolls on 19 April 2013.
  • Severe drought conditions are still befalling for Wotje and the atolls of the Marshall Islands north of Majuro.
  • An initial assessment of the impacts of the drought is underway through the mobilization of three multi-disciplinary teams, led by the National Disaster Management Office and supported by experts from OFDA/USAID and International Organization for Migration IOM.
  • The severe drought conditions have significantly affected drinking water supplies, rainwater catchment storage, salinity of groundwater and agriculture / food production on the atoll islands requiring immediate as well as long-term response measures
  • Scientific analysis by NOAA and SPC indicate that additional rains can be expected from July to November after which rains are expected to reduce (Source: NOAA, SPC)

Thirteen local governments had formally requested assistance from the National Government in January 2013, to address the challenges associated with the drought.

Three main sectors were assessed by the team in April/May 2013 which included; water, health and agriculture for each atoll. Team members assisted each other and worked alongside their local counterparts. A briefing was made to the Mayor and/or Deputy Mayor of the atolls after the assessments.

The rainwater harvesting reserves are depleted of their water but the RO station adequately meets the drinking water needs of the community members. In regards, to the underground water sources, the wells were tested for Electrical Conductivity EC, and readings showed that they were not safe for drinking purposes. Water from wells had been utilized for washing clothes and hygiene purposes

In addition to the above, cases of gastritis, diarrhea with vomiting, abdominal pain, fever amongst children and hepatitis has been reported. More males than females suffered from gastritis.

For the purpose of strengthening its coordination capacity, UNDAC team was mobilized upon the government request. Working closely with the Emergency Operations Center EOC, OCHA/UNDAC team introduced the Cluster approach, which resulted in identifying 4 prioritized clusters including WASH, Health, Food Security and Logistics. Focal points for each cluster and their corresponding line ministries have been identified, 3Ws information has been consolidated in coordinated fashion, and action plan for respective cluster based on this analysis has been ready for facilitating following assistance.

International assistance seems to have been gradually accelerated, many countries and aid agencies have implemented or pledged their assistance. USAID and US embassy had provided seven RO units and ten more are expected to arrive in May, complemented by technical assistance of Food Security/Agriculture as well as WASH expert. Japan will provide emergency relief goods of food and water in line with the government response plan. In terms of RO units, Australia provided grant for purchase of 4 RO unites while NZ Red Cross provides 2 RO units with 4 WASH experts. OCHA and ADB pledged cash grant respectively USD50,000 and USD100,000. UNICEF is now mobilizing its assistance specialized in WASH whereas WHO, FAO and SPC/SOPAC are in process of providing technical assistance.