Marshall Islands water advisor says drought situation dire
Marshall Islands water advisor says drought situation dire.
Many elderly people and children in the Marshall Islands' north are now suffering from severe diarrhoea, fever, hepatitis and other water-borne illnesses as a result of a severe drought.
The government is grateful for overseas assistance, including a team that arrived this week from the New Zealand Red Cross and a United Nations humanitarian team, but more help is needed.
A state of disaster is now in force.
The government's National Water Advisor, Tom Vance, told Sara Vui-Talitu the situation is dire, after visiting several of the islands and atolls that haven't had any significant rain for eight months, with people forced to drink from contaminated wells.
VANCE: It is a really severe situation here in Marshall Islands. I was on the assessment team last week, where we went to the island of Mejit, and also to Utrecht. And those islands, along with Ailuk, have experienced no rain in about eight months now.
VUI-TALITU: How bad is the water quality?
VANCE: When we checked the salinity of the wells, they were up to between 6,000 parts per million and 12,000 parts per million in salinity. The allowed salinity by EPA here is 1,000 parts per million, so it's right off the scale. It's a very severe situation. There's a lot of diarrhoea and sickness, fevers, actually some hepatitis also, especially with the children and the elderly.
VUI-TALITU: So where will the New Zealand Red Cross team be going?
VANCE: They're going out to Maloelop, I think, and then also Ailuk. And they have two Spectra Watermakers from New Zealand Red Cross that they're going to set up there. Through this water crisis, they've experienced a social crisis, as well, because the northern part of the island has had to migrate to the southern part of the island because there's no drinking water. All the breadfruit trees are dying, and even the coconuts are starting to dry up, so they don't have anything to drink. So there's starting to be some social problems. So that's what the New Zealand Red Cross is doing right now. They're taking their machines up to the northern part and setting them up so that the northern people can actually return to their villages. It's really appreciated so much. That's a huge thing.
VUI-TALITU: Is that just on Ailuk?
VANCE: That's the island that's experienced the most migration problems right now, Ailuk. That's actually an island. The other ones are atolls, so they have a lagoon. And they'll experience different problems there, especially with the deterioration of their water lands. I think that's actually the biggest thing that we're looking at right now. The SPC people are part of our team - SPC and EPA and and also USAID, they came along, a water assessment team. And we assessed the condition of the wells and also the health of the people. In Megit they have more diarrhoea amongst children and the elderly, and they seem to be having more health effects.
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