Federated States of Micronesia: Disaster Management Reference Handbook (November 2019)

Executive Summary

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a Pacific Island country highly vulnerable to various natural disasters which are destructive, often unpredictable, and occur frequently. The FSM has climate and disaster risks, including rising sea levels, water shortages from extreme climate variability, coastal erosion and typhoons. Most of the outer islands are low-lying atolls and are consequently vulnerable to rising sea levels. Increases in ocean temperatures and acidification cause coral reef damage and bleaching. This contributes to coastal erosion, leaving the islands more vulnerable to storm surges and floods.

Disasters have negative impacts on the social sectors of health, education, and livelihoods, resulting in deeper inequalities of opportunity to the population, which are transmitted over generations. The FSM, like many Pacific island countries and territories, face a triple burden including communicable disease, noncommunicable disease, and the health impacts of climate change. The number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases is among the highest in the world, while various communicable diseases also still burden the Pacific. Despite these setbacks, FSM has experienced some positive health trends in the past last thirty years. For example, life expectancy has been increasing, while child mortality has been decreasing.

The people living in FSM have drinking water shortages and their food security is in critical danger due to rising sea level. As rising sea levels mix saltwater with the groundwater in several areas, it makes it more difficult to irrigate agricultural land. The high level of salinity also poisons the ground, making it infertile for years. In addition, FSM’s remote and dispersed island geography can adversely prevent economic development. As a result, the country is heavily dependent on aid funding. Several non-profit organizations are working with the government to identify and conserve marine protected areas and protect resources for food security. Thus, the United Nation (UN’s)Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women are partners in various preparedness and risk reduction projects and can be called upon during emergencies. The UN agencies in the region also cooperate closely via the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT), which includes international and national NGOs, including OXFAM and Save the Children. The Micronesia Red Cross Society (MRCS) is also present and a constant partner for disaster responses. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for FSM are also two of the key humanitarian players.

FSM’s National Disaster Response Plan (2016) defines the measures to be taken at all government levels to ensure that effective disaster preparedness, response, relief and recovery are carried out. It outlines institutional arrangements and includes provisions for accessing international support. When a disaster occurs in FSM, external support arrangements through the Compact of Free Association (COFA) between FSM and the U.S., as well as the UN regional office are initiated at the direction of the President of FSM on the advice of and through the National Disaster Committee (NDC). Operational deployment of these arrangements, including via the humanitarian Cluster system and at the state level, are through the National Disaster Coordination Team (NDCT). USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/ OFDA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have developed an operational blueprint which guides humanitarian assistance in the event of a significant disaster in FSM. USAID/OFDA collaborates closely with FEMA, as well as USAID/Philippines and USAID’s Bureau for Asia, to implement humanitarian programs in FSM. USAID/OFDA supports life-saving activities in response to natural disasters, including drought, floods, and storms, and provides technical assistance to coordinate response and early recovery activities.

Minor emergencies can overwhelm national capacity and significantly affect the population and economy in the FSM. Disaster response in FSM included Typhoon Wutip in February 2019 in the affected areas of Chuuk and Yap. 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. Strategic Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and climate change mitigation efforts continue to be important focal areas for the country and its partners.