Severe drought on Marshalls elevated to state of disaster
Severe drought situation on Marshall Islands elevated to state of disaster.
A state of disaster has been declared in the Marshall Islands as a prolonged severe drought worsens on northern atolls, putting lives at risk.
The move elevates the state of emergency that was put in place last month, with some atolls having had no rainfall since November last year.
Sara Vui-Talitu has more:
VUI-TALITU: Our correspondent in Majuro says an estimated 4,000 people on atolls scattered hundreds of square kilometres apart are now suffering from extreme drought conditions.
Giff Johnson says many food crops have been destroyed and assessment teams report the situation is desperate due to the lack of clean water.
JOHNSON: Essentially, these atolls rely on rainwater for fresh water and as a result of the drought the wells are pretty salty and people are being warned not to use them. So about the only thing left to drink are the coconuts on trees. So there is a big effort by the government to get reverse-osmosis units out to the islands, and also delivering bottled water and some food to try and mitigate the immediate problem.
VUI-TALITU: Several of the islands do have solar-powered reverse osmosis water-making equipment. But these units are small, and produce only 300 gallons of water daily for island populations that in some places exceed five or six hundred people. The Chief Secretary for the Marshall Islands government, Casten Nemra, says that's not enough and more emergency aid is needed.
NEMRA: Our Cabinet has declared a state of disaster, which basically means we've elevated the situation. And this is at the point where life is imminently threatened. We are doing all we can to address and cope with the situation now at hand.
VUI-TALITU: Mr Nemra says over the weekend, a ship was sent out carrying essential supplies like food and bottled water, but what is needed most is rain. He says he is grateful for overseas aid that is coming in now.
NEMRA: The United States has provided seven reverse-osmosis units, and is promising more and the Australian government's announced more than 100,000 US dollars in relief that will be a huge help. This funding will help us to purchase more, so this is something that we very much appreciate, something that we will also inform our public of at this point in time. It is a good gesture on the part of Australia.
VUI-TALITU: A senior forecaster at the National Weather Office in Guam, Clint Simpson, says the lingering high-pressure system over the Marshall Islands does appear more severe than usual. He says there have been trickles of rain over pockets of the Marshall Islands, but he doesn't see any rain over drought-stricken areas anytime soon.
SIMPSON: We do not see any relief in sight. We do anticipate that as the weeks progress, we will get back to more normal rainfall pattern across Micronesia, but it looks like dry weather will persist at least for the next several weeks, and possibly longer.
VUI-TALITU: Casten Nemra says the government has plans to send out more vessels with supplies and reverse osmosis water-making equipment in the next week.
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