With no substantial rainfall since November 2016, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) declared a state of emergency in April 2017 due to a severe drought affecting the country. At the time eight out of the country’s 29 atolls were affected by the drought, impacting approximately 12 per cent of the overall population of RMI.
By the end of May 2017, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) reported that the number of affected atolls had increased to 14. Needs of the affected population include water and sanitation, food security, agriculture and health services. As of June 2017, the Government of RMI is considering extending the State of Emergency in response to the drought; to mitigate the impact of the current drought, the NDMO has developed a response plan and is leading efforts on the ground.
“RMI faces risks from a variety of hazards; typhoons, storm surges, droughts and flooding. As these hazards are closely related to weather systems, the frequency and intensity of these natural disasters may increase due to climate variability and change.”
RMI Deputy Chief Secretary.
RMI, a small low-lying country with an estimated population of 53,000 people, is extremely susceptible and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Death of the coastal marine ecosystem is having a significant impact on communities while El Niño events in 2015-2016 brought periods of drought coupled with typhoons that have hit the country with increasing intensity.
“The Pacific island states are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and the inhabitants of many islands are already suffering from extreme weather events such as tropical cyclone, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods, and their effects."
Capacity to respond to disasters, including El Nino related events and drought, in RMI has been strengthened by investments in preparedness. In support of preparedness actions in RMI and countries across the Pacific, the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) with the support of the OCHA Office for the Pacific, piloted the development of a Country Preparedness Package (CPP) in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and RMI over the last year.
"The PHT as a network of humanitarian organizations that work together to assist Pacific Island countries in preparing for and responding to disasters must ensure that we coordinate our effort to support local actors in preparedness and response.”
Sune Gudnitz, Head of OCHA Pacific (Co – chair of PHT)
The PHT together with the Government, civil society and donors collaborated through an inter-agency forum to formulate the CPP in RMI. The CPP outlines the existing national coordination structures and agreed planning for utilizing international support in a disaster response. In the current drought in RMI, the CPP has enabled international actors to better understand the local existing disaster management mechanism in country ensuring alignment of support to the Government led response.
In the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, lead agencies conducted one-on-one consultation with local actors including key Government agencies to support development of the CPP. The roll out of the CPP was led by UNFPA in RMI supported by UNDP and OCHA, UNICEF led the roll out in Vanuatu and OCHA in the Solomon Islands.
Based on the CPP pilot review conducted in April, the second phase of the CPP will be further strengthened building on the RAPID approach, developed to support emergency response preparedness activities in Asia, and the ERP taking into consideration preliminary disaster scenarios to help operational and strategic decision making. At the end of the process, a country-specific approach and strategies for responding to disasters, including agreed plan for utilizing international support, will be developed.