A natural disaster is 30 times more likely to occur in the Pacific Islands than in the U.S. The pressing issues include the region’s vulnerability to disasters and the impacts of climate change. Even small disasters can overwhelm small-island economies like the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Many communities in FSM are being displaced due to rising sea levels. The Pacific is also dealing poverty issues, urbanization and population growth.
FSM has assessed risk hazards including coastal erosion, rising sea level, storm surge, flood, tsunami, tropical cyclone, drought, earthquake, epidemic, and secondary impacts such as landslides. In addition, fires, water shortages, and food shortages have also occurred during severe dry events.People living in these small island states are vulnerable to slow- and rapid-onset disasters related to climate change, including rising sea levels, and shifting rainfall and storm patterns. Many of the region’s villages have not developed formal disaster response training, leaving families unprepared to survive catastrophic events. Typhoon Maysak tore through the islands of FSM in March 2015 causing fatalities, damaging houses, crops, and public infrastructure, and causing millions of dollars in damage. Nearly 30,000, or almost one third of FSM’s population was affected and rebuilding efforts are still ongoing.
FSM faces geographic challenges; it consist of over 600 islands (76 inhabited), and four states, spread over approximately 1500 nautical miles. The widely dispersed islands present a unique challenge to governance, service delivery, and communication in relation to disaster management.10 Remoteness of outer island and lagoon communities is a constraint. As a result, knowledge and awareness of issues such as climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR) is low (despite them often being the most vulnerable to hazards). There is little activity in regards to direct community mobilization for Disaster Risk Management (DRM). For example, there lacks a designated leader for facilitating development of village level DRM plans.