MARSHALL ISLANDS' 177 HEALTH CARE PROGRAM AND NEW FULL-TIME DOCTORS AT RISK

By Jack Niedenthal

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, July 26) - The 177 Health program has been extremely important for the nuclear victims of the Marshall Islands. Under the first Compact between the US and the RMI, this program has taken care of not just the people from the 4 nuclear-affected atolls where they reside today, but also anyone in the RMI who has received a personal injury claim from the Nuclear Claims Tribunal. This was one of the programs that the 4 atoll group has been desperately lobbying the US Congress for over the past 4 years because we feel that it needs to continue.

The current 177 Health Program staff, led by Dr. Robyn McIntyre, has done a great job for the nuclear victims of the RMI, and on a very low and inadequate budget. This new program of sending full time doctors to Enewetak, Uterik, Mejatto [where the Rongelap population lives], and Kili Island [where the Bikinian people live] is simply tremendous and we all really applaud her efforts to make this happen. The idea of sending doctors from Nepal who have experience working in remote areas is brilliant. The doctor for Kili Island is already there and working as of this past Friday.

The scary thing is this program and others such as the USDA feeding program are threatened and might be terminated within 6 months if they are not renewed under the new Compact. It is essential and morally necessary that the US continue to fund this added level of health care for these victims who otherwise could not afford this kind of care in the Marshall Islands because of their unusual injuries that resulted from the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program that lasted from 1946-1958 on Bikini and Enewetak. The recent unilateral language inserted into the new Compact by the US includes this health care program, but we are unsure what this means for the 177 Health Program’s future because there were other unilateral provisions concerning nuclear issues inserted that the 4 atolls don’t agree with.

We urge those Americans who are concerned about the welfare of the nuclear victims of the RMI to contact their representatives to show support for the Marshallese people who sacrificed their lives and their land for the sake of world peace and US prosperity. It is hard for most of us in the RMI to sit back and watch as the US expends $4 billion a month in Iraq to help people that manage to kill Americans on a daily basis to show their thanks and support.

The people of the RMI are now--and always have been--great allies and friends of America: our young people serve in the US military, Bikini and Enewetak were used as a US testing range for nuclear weapons, and currently Kwajalein Atoll is used for US missile testing and tracking and we constantly back even the most unpopular US positions in the United Nations. And what is our reward for these ultimate forms of cooperation and friendship? Neglect. Deceitful Compact negotiations: we were told repeatedly over the years by US negotiators that nuclear issues would not be a part of this new Compact and then all of a sudden a huge number of provisions get unilaterally inserted by the US administration without a single word of negotiation with the RMI.

What do we have to do to get treated with respect?

Recently, Representative Grace F. Napolitano at a US House International Relations' Full Committee hearing publicly stated how the US "received a good bargain" with the Compact. How insulting. How about this for a good bargain: the US Congress ponies up the $2 billion or so that would for the most part fix the half-century-old political and scientific nuclear nightmare that the United States has created out here for the people of the Marshall Islands.

That would be a "good bargain" everyone should be able to live with.

 

Jack Niedenthal is the Trust Liaison for the People of Bikini

July 28, 2003

Yokwe Online: www.yokwe.net

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