More aid agencies help drought stricken Marshall Islands
More aid agencies assist Marshall Islands atolls facing a humanitarian crisis due to drought.
More aid agencies are mobilising to help Marshall Islands, which is in a state of disaster as it battles severe drought in the north.
People are now starting to feel the effects of depleted food crops and disease due to the lack of fresh water.
Sara Vui-Talitu has more:
There are 24 atolls which make up the Marshall Islands' north, and the Red Cross says about half of them are badly affected by the five month-long drought. The government says the lack of water's affecting up to 5,000 people and crop losses are having an impact on another 11,000. The Red Cross International Operations manager, Glenn Rose, says some families are surviving on less than one litre of water per person per day. He says they have sent a team from New Zealand with almost 350 kilograms of equipment, including desalination units which turn salty water into drinkable water.
ROSE: We've got a combination of water shortage plus crop failure, so what that creates is people becoming food insecure. So you end up with a double whammy, similar to what happened in Tuvalu two years ago. The priority is to get certainly the women and children and the elderly enough water to live on. The minimum is about four litres a day per person. Hopefully it will rain and that will sort the crops out in the short term.
Glenn Rose says many gardens and crops have been affected by the dry weather. Crop failures with breadfruit and coconut trees dying, banana and taro crops have failed, and this puts extra pressure on those communities to survive. We're trying to prevent this crisis getting any worse. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is one of many agencies helping out. An spokesperson for the office in the Pacific, Greg Grimsich, says as well as sending support teams, they have provided food, water desalination units and hygiene kits, as well as US$50,000 to help out. But he says there are big hurdles in getting the help where it's needed.
GRIMSICH: One of the biggest costs, unfortunately, in this, is for the logistics in getting some of the relief assistance out to those outer islands. Also we've been working closely with USAID and OFDA [Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance] who are in the Marshalls, and have been supporting them with desalination units. So we are just trying to complement our support services as much as possible.
Our correspondent in Majuro, Giff Johnson, says solar water desalination units are a good short term solution, but ongoing maintenance is a problem.
JOHNSON: This is the challenge. It's easy enough to install this equipment, but to maintain it over the months when it needs to produce water is a real challenge on these very remote, isolated islands where you have salt air and humidity, which really affects the equipment and makes it a real challenge to keep it working.
And he says people's health is starting to be affected.
JOHNSON: Water-borne or 'lack of water' type illnesses - things like pink eye, diarrhoea, that sort of thing - it certainly wouldn't be unusual given the lack of fresh water, and I think that's another concern the people have.
Giff Johnson says while northern atolls remain bone-dry, with no rain expected for at least another month, Majuro has had heavy downpours.
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