13 May 2013

Humanitarian crisis looms in drought-stricken Marshall Islands

6:34 pm on 13 May 2013

The Red Cross in New Zealand says the Marshall Islands is facing a potential humanitarian crisis as water supplies have been gradually depleted.

Last week the Marshall Islands declared a state of national disaster due to an extended drought.

The Red Cross says current assessments by the government indicate between 3,700 and 5,000 people are severely affected by the drought, and another 11,000 people are affected by crop loss.

It's International Operations manager, Glenn Rose, says some families are surviving on less than one litre of water per person per day.

"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 4 litres a day per person. Hopefully it will rain and that will sort the crops out in the short term."

Glenn Rose says the team will be there for two weeks with desalination units to provide portable drinking water to the most affected communities.