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Red Cross Calls For Greater Investment In Risk Reduction

Red Cross Calls For Greater Investment In Risk Reduction to Support Drought Hit Communities In the Marshall Islands

September 4, 2013 – Majuro. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on the international community to pledge greater support for risk reduction programmes that help hazard-prone communities in the Marshall Islands to adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

In the wake of the devastating drought earlier in the year that impacted 15 of the country’s northern atolls, the IFRC launched an international emergency appeal to address the immediate effects of the drought, such as food and water scarcity. The IFRC appeal also aims to link relief activities with longer-term adaptation and mitigation efforts that help affected communities to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters.

The Marshall Islands is currently hosting the 44th Pacific Islands Forum, where climate change adaptation is high on the agenda.
“The New Zealand Government’s pledge to support low-lying Pacific Island nations to better manage their fresh water resources sends a positive message to the international community. We hope that it encourages further attention and investment in this area”, says Victoria Bannon, the IFRC’s operations coordinator in Majuro.  “Climate change is something that communities in the Marshall Islands discuss daily.  We have spoken with people on Namu Atoll who are concerned that the drought will happen again, they are worried about their livelihoods and their access to drinking water.”
The IFRC aims to work with local volunteers across three atolls to repair and improve household and community rainwater harvesting systems.  Building local capacity is critical to achieve this aim and one of the priorities is to work with a volunteer group towards the establishment of a permanent Red Cross National Society with community level volunteers spread across the Marshall Islands.

“Our main priority is to help these communities to become more resilient in the face of changing weather patterns. Our projects must be sustainable, this means having the full participation of community members. They will have ownership over the future management of community rainwater systems”, says Bannon.

The drought in the Marshall Island first took hold in April 2013, when a state of emergency was declared by the Government.  The long-term impact on local agriculture and water reserves has been severe. In June, the IFRC launched its emergency appeal for 803,000 Swiss francs (USD 861,000). The appeal is currently only 40% funded.


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