MAJURO, REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS (20 May 2013) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $100,000 emergency grant to the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help fund drought relief efforts in the northern areas of the Marshall Islands.
On 19 April 2013, the Government declared a state of emergency for the northern islands, which was later elevated to a state of disaster on 8 May, in response to the persistent drought which has exhausted rainwater supplies and made groundwater from wells unsafe to drink. Water scarcity has also contributed to outbreaks of water-borne disease.
“About 5,000 people on the northern islands of Ailuk, Aur, Lae, Maloelap, Mejit, Ujae, Utrik, Wotho, and Wotje are experiencing the severe drought which is also contributing to food shortages,” said Ayumi Konishi, Deputy Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department. “We are working with our development partners to provide life-saving support to affected people.”
Very dry weather is expected to continue in Marshall Islands until at least July 2013. Even when rain returns to the affected areas it could take up to 12 months for food crops to recover, resulting in continuing food insecurity. Replenishment of groundwater and rainwater reserves will take several months.
ADB approved the grant under its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund.
The Marshall Islands consists of small low-lying atolls and islands spread over an 1,800 square kilometer area of the Pacific Ocean. This makes the country extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change. The last severe drought faced by the Marshall Islands was in 2007.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2012, ADB assistance totaled $21.6 billion, including cofinancing of $8.3 billion.