Water Crisis Underlines Pacific's Drought Risk

Delegates will discuss the drought and other issues at a roundtable discussion in Fiji July 8 to 11

Marshall Islands Asia and Pacific Drought Fiji Roundtable Discussion

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) issued a warning that a lack of safe drinking water is emerging as a major natural hazard for many small islands in the Pacific.

“The worsening situation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is a strong warning for the whole of the Pacific of the potential suffering that drought brings, particularly as many islands in the Pacific have limited water supplies,” said Jerry Velazquez, head for Asia-Pacific for UNISDR.

More than 6,700 people in the Marshall Islands have a lack of safe water as drought conditions have depleted water tanks and made groundwater unsuitable for human consumption due to high salinity. The government has declared a state of drought disaster.

The drought will be among the issues discussed by delegates gathering for the Joint Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Nadi, Fiji, July 8 to 11.

“The Marshall Islands crisis clearly shows how important it is for Pacific Islands to integrate drought mitigation measures into their national planning and risk assessments,” Velasquez said. “We mainly think about sea level rise and cyclone risks when we talk about Small Island Developing States (SIDS), but drought is also threatening thousands of communities. We need to make better use of weather forecasts for early drought warning. There is also a need for improved rainwater harvesting and other community-based measures."

The recently released UN 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction warns of how climate change will magnify the disaster risk in SIDS around the world. Approximately 250 delegates, including representatives from various Pacific islands, are scheduled to attend the joint meeting in Fiji and will discuss the successor of the Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year global plan of action to reduce disaster risk, which ends in 2015.


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