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Prolonged drought impacting  food, water across Micronesia

US Coast Guard conducts a medical evacuation while supporting USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and International Organisation for Migration – Micronesia drought relief mission. Photo: Facebook / US Indo-Pacific Command

Extreme droughts in the Western Pacific region are expected to persist over the next three months.

of the Marshall Islands, Guam, Palau, Mariana Islands, and the Federated States
of Micronesia (FSM) are now designated under extreme and exceptional drought.

conditions are causing a massive strain on agriculture, water supply, and daily
life for residents in FSM’s Yap Proper, the atoll of Wotje in the northern
Marshall Islands, and other nearby islands in the Marshalls.

weather service forecaster Joshua Schank told RNZ Pacific that while the region
expected the last four months to be dry, the current El Niño weather pattern
has intensified conditions.

rainfall across our region just kind of stopped for many places,” Schank

less rain than they should get to be able to keep up water levels at a healthy

El Niño event, which brings wet weather to southern US states and the Gulf of
Mexico, causes dry conditions in the Western Pacific often causing droughts.

December through January, February, and now March and April, parts of
Micronesia have experienced very little rainfall, even compared to normal, for
the dry season,” Schank said.

last El Niño event recorded in the region was in 2015.

forecaster explained these weather patterns are becoming more difficult to
predict, with each El Niño event responding differently.

factors contribute to the strength of other (weather) patterns such as the
Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), the Indian Ocean Dipole, or other climate
patterns that help influence and affect how the El Niño develops during each

across the region have reported agricultural strain, with staple crops such as
taro patches yellowing and coconuts drying up.

region was also hit with a king tide and trade winds last month, which caused
crop damage across the Marshall Islands and the FSM.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has labelled the situation dire. An
estimated 16,000 people, 40 percent of those being children, need food and

Pacific correspondent in Guam, Naina Rao, said the water supplies have all but
run out.

of these islands’ community water tanks are broken, and water wells are
low,” Rao said.

a result, they’re running low on drinking water because of these water

to communication and the internet in Guam is only possible when aid ships
arrive on the island. RNZ Pacific spoke to Guam resident Larry Raigetal, who is
from the island of Lamotrek in Yap.

said he last spoke to his family in Yap a week ago, who told him the residences
were ‘limiting and rationing as best as they can.’

are using water only when necessary people are reserving a lot,” he added.

people are bathing in the lagoon, in the ocean just to avoid having to use
fresh water.”

weather service also warned of the ‘threat of wildfires.’ A major wildfire,
early this month, destroyed five acres of a popular outdoor recreation park on
Cocos Island, in Guam.

the authorities were investigating the situation, RNZ Pacific correspondent Rao
spoke with the weather office, who confirmed the fire ‘was related to the very
dry conditions of the region.’

have also been reported in Palau, Yap in FSM, and Pohnpei in the Marshall

the prolonged drought response efforts have been carried out by the disaster
coordinating offices, out of FSM and the National Disaster Management Office in
the Marshall Islands.

relief vessels have also supplied water, food, as well as reverse osmosis (RO)
units; water purification systems capable of producing 360 litres of clean
water per day.

number of international humanitarian organisations have become involved in the
situation, including; Catholic Relief Services, the US Agency for International
Development (USAID), UNICEF, and the UN’s International Organization for

week ago, at the request of the US Embassy, the United States Coast Guard
delivered drought relief supplies to the most affected areas.

Australian vessel Reliant was dispatched with 116,000 litres of fresh water,
for drought response in Pohnpei earlier this month.




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