IOM in the North Pacific seeks to save lives by building regional resilience to the increased hazards and vulnerabilities facing Small Island Developing Pacific Countries (PSIDS). IOM seeks to work with concerned communities, governments and civil society to reduce risks to the safety, security, human rights and well-being of the Micronesian people while supporting progress towards strengthened disaster prevention and emergency preparedness.
The Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) recognize the increasingly devastating impact of extreme weather events on the socio-economic well-being of their citizens. The geographic location and topography of the North Pacific region makes the island nations highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the cyclical effects of El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related weather events, including temperature extremes, drought, typhoons, and heavy rainfall. In the last decade alone, the North Pacific region has been hit by typhoons (Palau 2012, 2013; FSM 2015, 2019) and drought (Palau 2016; FSM 2010, 2011; RMI 2013, 2016, 2017) among additional hazard events.
The increasing frequency of disasters and extreme vulnerability including predictions for total or significant loss of land and its implications for the security, human rights and well-being of the Micronesian people have prompted governments and international partners to look at risks to livelihoods, coastal settlements, infrastructure, ecosystems, economic stability, and interventions to build resilience and reduce these risks. The remote and low isolation of the outer islands requires communities to be actively involved in disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts, and have the tools, capacity and resources to do so.
While all three countries are currently COVID-free as of December 2020 due to strict border closings, the potential for an outbreak will have severe negative impacts due to limited preparedness and threaten an already weakened health system. A large proportion of the population would be considered particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, as rates of non-communicable disease in the Pacific population are among the highest in the world. Individuals and groups who are also at high risk include those with relatively unequal and inadequate access to basic social services, including health and sanitation; those who are highly dependent on the informal economy; and those with limited or no access to communication and information channels, including persons with disabilities, children, youth, the elderly, and marginalized groups. The socioeconomic impact of the crisis has exacerbated the vulnerability of populations, and once a vaccine is available, accessing remote outer islands, and ensuring wide coverage, if needed, will require substantial coordinated efforts.
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