IOM in the North Pacific strives to save lives by building the resilience of the region to the increasing hazards and vulnerabilities facing Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). IOM seeks to work closely with populations of concern, government, and civil society to mitigate risks to safety, security, human rights, and the well-being of Micronesian people while supporting progress towards strengthened disaster prevention and emergency preparedness.
The Republic of Palau, 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 its citizens. The North Pacific region’s geographic location and topography render the island-states particularly vulnerable to impacts of climate change and the cyclical effects of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related weather events, including extreme temperatures, drought, typhoons, and heavy rainfall. In the past decade alone, the North Pacific region has been devastated by typhoons (Palau 2012, 2013; FSM 2015, 2019) and droughts (Palau 2016; FSM 2010, 2011; RMI 2013, 2016, 2017) among additional hazard events.
The increasing frequency of disasters and extreme vulnerability including predictions for the significant or total loss of landmass and the implications for the security, human rights and wellbeing of Micronesian people has led the governments and international partners to look at the risks to livelihoods, coastal settlements, infrastructure, ecosystems, economic stability, and interventions to build resilience and mitigate those risks. The isolation of the remote, low-lying outer islands necessitates that communities actively engage 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 closure of borders, a potential outbreak would have severe negative impacts due to limited preparedness and threaten the already weakened health systems. A significant proportion of the population would be considered highly vulnerable to COVID-19, as the level of non-communicable diseases in Pacific populations is among the highest in the world. Individuals and groups also at high-risk include those who have relatively unequal and inadequate access to basic social services, including health and sanitation; those who depend heavily on the informal economy; and those with limited or no access to communication and information channels, including persons with disabilities, children, adolescents, elderly, and marginalized groups. The socio-economic impacts of the crisis have exacerbated the vulnerability of the population, and as a vaccine is made available, accessing the remote outer islands, and ensuring widespread coverage, if needed, will require a substantial coordinated effort.