Marshall Islanders face water shortage

2013-05-10 14:03

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Majuro, Marshall Islands – About 6 000 people who live on the remote northern atolls of the Marshall Islands are facing an acute shortage of fresh water as a severe drought worsens.

The Pacific archipelago this week declared a state of disaster in its north. Australia announced it would provide $101 000 for the emergency supply of desalination units. The US has also donated several reverse-osmosis machines, which covert salt water into fresh water.

There is no end in sight to the drought, with fine weather forecast for at least the next 10 days. The drought has also affected the food supply, withering crops such as breadfruit, bananas and taro.

Chief Secretary Casten Nemra, who chairs the national disaster committee, said many large families are surviving on as little as a gallon of water a day.

"It's an increasingly desperate situation out there," he said. "The dry season should have ended six weeks ago."

He said there have been no deaths recorded but there has been an increase in diseases like pinkeye and diarrhea. The government has deployed ships carrying food, water and medical supplies to the affected islands, he added.

The Marshall Islands is home to about 70 000 people who live on far-flung atolls and islands. The capital Majuro, home to much of the population, has not been as badly affected by the drought.

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