14 May 2013

Logistics issues hamper Marshalls drought relief

1:49 pm on 14 May 2013

A UN office dealing with disaster response says difficult logistics is one of the biggest hurdles for the Marshall Islands, whose northern atolls are facing a prolonged drought.

Atolls totally dependent on rain for their fresh water supply have run out or are very low, with many families now surviving on less than one litre of fresh water a day.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, is one of many agencies helping to provide immediate support on the government's request, after it declared a state of disaster.

One OCHA spokesman in the Pacific, Greg Grimsich, says as well as sending support teams, they have provided food items, water desalination units and hygiene kits, as well as 50,000 US dollars to help out.

"It's 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."

Greg Grimsich says they understand 5,000 people are worst affected by the drought conditions with a lack of food and drinkable water, but a further 11,000 people have also been impacted due to depleting food crops.