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Red Cross Aid Worker Heads To Marshall Islands for 6 Months

31 July 2013

Red Cross Aid Worker Heading To Marshall Islands for Six Months

New Zealand Red Cross aid worker Ana Zarkovic is heading to the Republic of the Marshall Islands for a six month mission to help the islanders recover from the recent drought.

The 31-yearold Auckland water engineer will work as an Early Recovery Delegate, helping drought-affected communities recover by making use of rainwater harvesting systems.

“I understand the situation is not so critical now that some parts of the country have had rain, but I will be looking at existing rainwater collection systems such as gutters, roofs and tanks.

“I’ll also be working with community leaders like teachers and church ministers to improve current hygiene practices where required.”

Ana will also be helping the emerging Red Cross society in RMI to prepare its response to the next drought.

She says she is looking forward to returning to Ailuk Atoll, where she and another New Zealand Red Cross aid worker were based during the drought emergency earlier this year.

“I feel like I have a connection with the community there and am looking forward to working with them in the future.

“I hope my projects will be led by the communities I will be assisting. Strong community ownership of water supply systems often leads to more buy-in by the community, making the projects more sustainable,” she says.

Ms Zarkovic will also be assessing if the reverse osmosis desalination unit she left in Ailuk is still working and still needed. The machine is capable of making one litre of fresh water a minute.

At its height, the drought affected the crops of 11,000 people and saw 6400 people across 15 atolls surviving on less than a litre of water per person per day.

The lack of water caused a number of health problems for the local population, including diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, and influenza and killed breadfruit and banana trees.

Four New Zealand Red Cross aid workers took 400kg of equipment with them including two desalination units, when they responded to the drought in May. During their stay they produced 12,630 litres of water.

The Marshall Islands deployment is being carried out with support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Zarkovic leaves for the Marshalls on the weekend.

ENDS

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