RMI Government Denies Social Unrest During Drought

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Foreign minister: people ‘just frustrated’ with limited resources

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 19, 2013) – The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) government has denied there's drought-related social unrest in its northern atolls.

Some of the islands haven't had significant rain for a year and are relying on donated portable desalination units for drinking water.

Earlier this month, the National Water Advisor to the Marshall Islands government, Tom Vance, described the situation in the islands of Enewetak and Utrik as "dire" and said there was a lot of social tension.

RMI Foreign Minister Phillip Muller has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat it's an overstatement to describe the situation as unrest.

"People just get frustrated a little bit with everybody trying to get to the limited resources that we send out. But I think that is an overstatement."

"I think people are trying to deal with the situation the best they can and try to be as useful as they can to one another as possible" he said.

Mr. Vance said up to seven thousand people were affected and many villagers had been forced to migrate to bigger centers, with nowhere to stay and overcrowding problems.

Relief organizations have boosted water availability via water-making units, but food supply and crop security remain an issue.

"The forecast for the next few months is that rain won't be in the forecast for a while ... and our main and long-term concern is the health of the people as well as the recovery of the food crops and the longer the drought is, we may not be able to have the food crops recover."

However, the Minister is hopeful the situation will improve.

"We have got the green light from President Obama that they are willing to continue and increase their support on this drought situation. Also some UN assistance has been approved so far. So I think we will just continue to provide what we can," he said.

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