Hunger in MicronesiaAll too often, poverty’s defining factor is income. However, other factors such as access to healthcare, public transportation and education all impact poverty as well. Micronesia’s well-deserved reputation as a paradise wrongly implies that poverty and hunger aren’t an issue. The islanders face a complex grouping of problems affecting food availability and agriculture despite the picturesque locale. Micronesia is comprised of 607 islands in the Northwestern Pacific. The country is represented in four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It is home to about 112,000 citizens with a median household income of $7,336 as of 2019, primarily earned through the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. This article will highlight the issue of hunger in Micronesia and list three potential solutions.

Hunger in Paradise

The issue of hunger in Micronesia has varying causation through the states. Although, some of the primary culprits throughout the country are climate change, a lack of affordable food and rapid urbanization. The effects of climate change in Micronesia is increasingly apparent; the resulting damage effects produce and agricultural land at an alarming rate. Wells in developing areas can become unusable once saturated with seawater, limiting potable water sources for drinking and cooking. Naturally abundant crops like breadfruit and taro suffer from rising sea levels too, with the intrusion of saltwater into their root systems limiting crop-yields or rendering them inedible. In the case of taro root, it takes between two and three years for the plant to be harvestable, so the damage is often long-lasting.

Rising sea levels have also forced residents to relocate or become further removed from services like emergency food supplies. Additionally, the geographical layout of the islands leads to heavy rainfall throughout the year and increases the number of typhoons, exacerbating coastal erosion. Unfortunately, many Micronesians live in these sinking coastal areas.

Additional Challenges

The loss of land and local produce has led to a search for non-agricultural jobs, leading to rapid urbanization in the country. This change has traditionally meant increased dependence on imported food as opposed to local crops, typically exported to the U.S., Japan and Guam. While convenient, these imported foods lack nutritional density, and often lead to health problems, increasing the rates of obesity in Micronesia. Today, as much as 70% of the daily diet in Micronesia can come from imported sources.

Solutions to Hunger in Micronesia

Unfortunately, issues like climate change seem to be here to stay. But, there are solutions to hunger and poverty in Micronesia. Below are three potential solutions:

  1. Increasing Education and Employment Opportunities: This hunger-reduction method will likely be challenging and costly, but increasing opportunities would boost the Micronesian economy and increase social welfare as a result. The Micronesian government might increasing internet accessibility or by rejuvenating the domestic food industry.
  2. Investing in Agriculture: Investing in nation-wide food production is likely to reduce hunger. For example, hydroponics can help combat the need for more farming land. Micronesians might use this technology to prevent saltwater from ruining the soil. Additionally, Micronesia might incentivize its citizens to buy local produce by increasing taxes on imported goods.
  3. Investing in Desalinization Systems: When specified to the region, purification and desalinization systems can improve the quality of drinking water, especially after natural disasters. Similarly, the Micronesian government might consider investing in solar-powered filtration systems. Lastly, Micronesia might increase its supply of drinking-water by increasing regulations on sewer facilities to prevent water contamination.

Identifying the issues and creating potential solutions is just the first step to ending poverty in Micronesia. Hopefully, Micronesia will choose to implement its plans and to invest in its future citizens. However, it will take foreign aid and the work of NGOs to fully tackle the problem of hunger in Micronesia.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Diabetes in MicronesiaFood and celebratory meals are the cornerstones of culture in The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The gradual change from traditional foods like fish and taro root to imported convenience foods has caused a rise in non-communicable diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure. FSM health officials attribute the rise of diabetes-related deaths to an influx of processed food. As of 2020, 463 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, with 90% of cases being Type 2. The FSM has the world’s highest percentage of diabetics by population in the world; a staggering 37.2 % of people have diabetes in Micronesia.

Type 2 diabetes can result in a host of life-threatening complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure and amputations. Furthermore, dialysis machines, used to support patients in advanced stages of the disease, are largely inaccessible in the FSM.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The people of the FSM traditionally fished and farmed local crops before World War II. The remote location and minimal infrastructure called for physical work to produce food, balancing the intake of nutrients with exercise. After the war, the U.S. began to import food to improve relations with its strategically located allies in the FSM. Presently, up to 40% of imports are food items. For instance, Micronesia imports 12% of canned meat products.

Micronesians, like all people, particularly those in poverty, consider prices when buying food. The median household income was $7,336 as of 2019. At this time, most Micronesians earned a living in the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. Today, a combo meal at a fast-food chain can range from $8 to $10, whereas a head of iceberg lettuce alone routinely tops $4 per head. Additionally, because the group of islands is remote, the cost of importing goods continues to rise.

In recent years, there has been a push to return to locally grown food. Increasing the production of domestic food will lower prices and increase the demand for healthier food. Ideally, higher demand for healthy food will decrease diabetes in Micronesia. Micronesians aim to invest in their agricultural systems and to improving their growing measures. For example, hydroponics will increase the availability of affordable produce.

Displacement and Diabetes

The effects of climate change in the FSM are becoming increasingly apparent. For example, seawater is damaging productive agricultural land at an alarming rate. Native crops like breadfruit and taro suffer from rising sea levels as saltwater leeches into their root systems, limiting crop-yields or rendering them inedible.

As climate change displaces people and increases the unemployment rate, it becomes even more challenging for Micronesians to afford basic necessities like healthy food. Unfortunately, the decrease in the supply of domestic produce also inherently increases dependence on imported food.

Additionally, many residents choose to relocate on account of rising sea levels. Otherwise, services like emergency food supplies and health care become inaccessible. Displaced people are also more likely to run into financial barriers. This obstacle leads to poor diets and ultimately overrides awareness and care of diabetes in Micronesia. Finally, diabetics often suffer complications including visual impairment and amputations, increasing the likelihood that they will fall into poverty.

Education is Prevention of Diabetes in Micronesia

Battling diabetes in Micronesia requires a multidisciplinary approach: doctors, nurses, teachers and healthcare workers must striving to educate their communities about the disease. Healthcare workers have focused their response on educating patients about the causes, symptoms and treatment of diabetes. Local health departments such as those in Kosrae provide ‘One-Stop Shops’ for vital bloodwork, wound care, vaccinations and dietary advice. The staff also works throughout the surrounding communities to educate people about obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, to provide vision and blood pressure screenings and to refer diabetics and pre-diabetics to specialty clinics for follow-up.

Educating patients about wound care and infection prevention has already lowered the incidence of amputations in some areas of the FSM. On average, a quarter of people with diabetes have some form of foot or lower leg ulceration during the course of their disease. Education and prevention are pivotal in improving the outcomes of patients who receive one lower-limb amputation. Currently, 21% of these patients need a second surgery. Thankfully many clinics and hospitals have focused on nutritional education, helping patients to improve their food choices and, in some cases, to reverse the diagnosis.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Micronesia
Poverty in The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a complex issue that requires dynamic solutions. The lack of jobs, vocational training, education, agricultural land and an aging population are all contributing factors to the high poverty rate on the island chain. The median household income of the nations’ 112,000 people was roughly $7,336 as of 2019, primarily earned in the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. Poverty figures can vary wildly in rural islands and atolls. Luckily, there are several innovations working toward eradicating poverty in Micronesia.

The FSM has been gathering data and implementing programs to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the early results of which reports determined in 2011: “… the FSM is on track to achieving MDGs for universal primary education, ensuring environmental sustainability and strengthened global partnership for development by 2015. While progress is expected on gender equality and empowerment of women, child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, the FSM is unlikely to eradicate poverty and improve maternal health.”

The following list of partnerships are working with the citizens and local governments to make eradicating poverty in Micronesia a reality.

Yap Renewable Energy Development Project

The Yap Renewable Energy Development Project (YREDP) is a program in FSM with the aim of building and maintaining renewable energy sources. Solar and wind power projects will provide jobs and training to local workers, reducing several factors indicative of poverty. The YREDP continually emphasizes the employment and training of local unskilled or under-employed workers, providing long term job opportunities further improving the local economy. Stable incomes and increased cash flow to workers’ families provides the economic foundation for future infrastructure that will utilize the renewable energy the YREDP aims to provide.

A stable supply of renewable energy allows people to accurately budget for utilities, limiting interruptions to food storage, education and healthcare. The environmental impact of renewable energy is also a factor in eradicating poverty in Micronesia. Environmental challenges are particularly challenging for Micronesia with 3,798 miles of coastline vulnerable to rising sea-levels.

The Establishment Agreement

The Establishment Agreement is a plan to increase the partnership between FSM and The World Bank, with the aim of helping the country meet its development goals in finances, energy, education and healthcare through technology and financial cooperation.

Proposed technological infrastructure improvements such as The Digital States of Micronesia will increase access to the internet. This will increase economic opportunities by decreasing the effects of geological isolation of FSM. The plan proposes methods to increase access to the internet by laying down terrestrial fiber infrastructure throughout FSM, enabling the efficient operation to both private and public sectors.

The increasing financial involvement of The World Bank outlined in The Establishment Agreement will help government offices by incorporating logistical solutions into previously slow processes like the granting of licenses and access to vital records. As the country invests in its infrastructure, connectivity improvements will provide the technological backing necessary to modernize education, vocational training and small businesses.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Program

The Green Climate Fund Country Program focuses on sponsoring and planning environmentally-friendly infrastructure and sustainable development projects. The GCF Country Program covers 13 projects and programs amounting to $1.4 billion in resources. This money goes towards aiding environmental conservation, public transportation infrastructure, sustainable agriculture, health, education and water supply management.

FSM faces environmental risks such as variable climate shifts from drought to extreme rainfall (El Nino and La Nina, respectively). The country is also geographically vulnerable to high swells, storm surges and typhoons. The impacts of environmental challenges in FSM are far-reaching, necessitating investments into innovative solutions as the country develops.

The Micronesian Conservation Trust is one program that works with the GCF to create and manage climate adaptation measures and resource management. Its work provides long term outcomes that preserve the environment while fostering sustainability. The focus on this type of infrastructure development aids in decreasing factors that contribute to poverty in Micronesia such as natural disasters, resource depletion and interruption of government resources by supporting measures that create jobs, provide clean water and outline plans for sustainable agriculture.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Desalination in Micronesia Could Alleviate Water ScarcityMicronesia, a cluster of hundreds of islands nestled in the Southwest Pacific, is a region with unique obstacles to development. Nationwide efforts to fight poverty are difficult to execute because of the disconnected nature of the islands. One of the greatest barriers for Micronesian communities in the fight against poverty is access to safe water. As of 2015, around 15% of the rural population lacked access to basic drinking-water sources. Water supply in the South Pacific is particularly susceptible to the climate, with certain weather patterns making the water too brackish, or is diseased with cholera, typhoid and other deadly water-borne illnesses.

Hardships and the Importance of a Stable Water Supply

In 2016, the region experienced one of the worst droughts in Micronesian history. An emergency response coordinator at the International Organization for Migration explained that the drought’s impacts went beyond just providing drinking water. In early 2020, some preparatory schools in Weno were forced to close because wells were drying up.

Furthermore, because agriculture employs almost half of the nation’s labor force and produces 60% of food supply, groundwater supply is critical. In the past, severe droughts have led local farms, which are the backbone of the economy, to be shut down.

A Promising Solution

Since problems of national drought and water insecurity in the country continue to resurface, many understand that there must be a restructuring of the Micronesian water infrastructure. Fortunately, the islands’ seafront location is leading many to suggest the potential of desalination in Micronesia. This process makes ocean water drinkable and has the potential to meet Micronesia’s needs. The Marshall Islands, one of the five states in Micronesia, recently completed a desalination project that purifies 1,600 cubic meters of seawater a day. Partially funded by the Asian Development Bank, the project has been revolutionary for the Marshall Islands’ water independence. Beyond the South Pacific, nations around the world have caught on to the capabilities of desalination, from Saudi Arabia and Oman to China and India. Plants operate in more than 100 countries, and many areas, like Dubai, have been able to shift to almost 100% desalination.

The Role of Renewable of Energy

Not only does desalination in Micronesia give islands the autonomy to have a stable water supply, but the desalination plants typically encourage the growth of renewable energy, like solar panels. This is partially a result of the fact that most modern desalination plants are powered through solar energy. When government funding is available to introduce solar energy, a presence for renewables is better established in the economy and further investment is more likely. The new plants in the Marshall Islands are solar-powered and have catalyzed the development of solar street lights estimated to significantly reduce energy consumption. These plants also provide reliable drinking water to 3000 Micronesians.

 

While poverty and child mortality rates have steadily dropped in the region in the last decades, Micronesia cannot continue to improve on this progress without access to a stable water supply. Fortunately, the development of infrastructure to encourage desalination in Micronesia alongside current plants in the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu is a groundbreaking step in this effort for nationwide water security.

Jack Berexa
Photo: Flickr

New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Infrastructure Development in Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia relies heavily on foreign aid, yet under its Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025, it plans to gain self-reliance and growth in six main areas. In addition, the Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project and the Maritime Investment Project, funded by the World Bank, are two major projects that are already underway. The developments are in key areas, such as fishing and island connectivity, which many Micronesians rely on for their livelihood.

Federal States of Micronesia Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025

As part of Micronesia’s Infrastructure Development Plan, economic growth and self-reliance are two areas of improvement. Micronesia is a remote region containing more than 600 islands northeast of Papua New Guinea, 74 of which are inhabited. Due to its remoteness, tourism and investment in the main regions of Micronesia are sparse. The Infrastructure Development Plan is focused on six main areas: macroeconomic stability, good governance, developing a private sector-led economy, health and education services, infrastructure improvement and long-term environmental sustainability.

Under this umbrella, Micronesia already has a number of accomplishments under its belt. Specifically, the School Facility Repair and Construction Master Plan came to fruition in 2013. Likewise, the Airport Master Plan was completed in 2012 and involves safety and security in air transportation. There are four international airports, and development in air transportation is another step to attracting tourism to Micronesia, and therefore, income to those employed in the tourism industry. Although infrastructure development in Micronesia covers many areas, positive economic growth and progress in becoming self-reliant are two important goals for developing its economy.

Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project

The World Bank donated $30 million to Micronesia’s Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project in December 2018. The project aims to increase electricity access and quality and to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. The four main states of Micronesia, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap rely on fossil fuels like diesel. About 96 percent of electricity use in Micronesia comes from fossil fuels, and about 75 percent of the total population has access to electricity.

The project’s goals are the following: increase electricity status in the state of Chuuk, increase renewable energy generation in the states of Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap, improve performance of the Pohnpei Utility Cooperation and provide technical assistance relating to governance, accountability and financial performance of the energy sector. Electricity access varies on the islands. Only 27 percent of the population in Chuuk has access to electricity, yet Pohnpei has a 95 percent electrification rate. The project aims to provide access to renewable energy to the islands for long-term use.

Federated States of Micronesia Maritime Investment Project

The Maritime Investment Project is another source of infrastructure development in Micronesia that was approved on May 9. At a cost of over $38 million, its focus is to increase efficiency, safety, security and climate resilience of maritime infrastructure and operations in Micronesia, including upgrades or repairs to terminal structures at Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap ports. The project will also improve the connection between the islands with regards to access to food, water and emergency response services.

More than 90 percent of exports are fish. The project benefits not only for infrastructure development in the major ports but also for Micronesians that work in the strong fishing industry. The project ends on August 1, 2024. Sihna Lawrence, Microneisa’s Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said, “Guided by our Infrastructure Development Plan, we look forward to working with the World Bank to improve our maritime transport and develop stronger connectivity across the archipelago.”

Ongoing Infrastructure Developments

Micronesia’s goal of self-reliance is given through the development plan and projects. Infrastructure development in Micronesia is a major move toward reducing the 41 percent poverty rate and improving health, education and the overall wellbeing of Micronesians.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Micronesia
A lack of credit access in Micronesia is limiting Micronesia’s ability to develop effective solutions to widespread poverty. Limited credit regulation and poor banking infrastructure (Micronesia has only 14 bank branches per 100,000 adults) have hindered attempts at poverty reduction. An estimated 16 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line (individuals or families whose income per person is less than $1.90 per day) while an estimated 42 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

Infrastructure

A lack of effective financial regulation plays an important role in this problem, as Micronesia lacks both the public (credit registry) and private (credit bureau) infrastructure necessary to ensure that financial institutions can confidently provide loans to businesses and individuals. This has produced an extremely small lending practice in Micronesia, as banks and other institutions face a substantial risk when offering loans. Beyond simply the difficulty in verifying that debtors can pay back their loans, there is little legal protection for creditors. When a debtor defaults on a loan, secured creditors do not receive payment first, and if a debtor files for bankruptcy, there are no legal guidelines establishing relief for the creditor. This creates little incentive for lending institutions to grant credit, as there are often serious questions about the prospect of getting their money back.

While poor financial regulation may not appear to have an immediate effect on the spread of poverty, it plays a substantial role in limiting prospects for poverty reduction. The two largest sectors of Micronesia’s economy are the service industry and agriculture, which together make up around 81 percent of Micronesia’s GDP. The lack of credit access in Micronesia has amplified the structural difficulties of poverty, as many lack the money necessary to purchase land or start a business. They also cannot reliably acquire such capital from banks, which harms the overall growth of these vital sectors.

Credit access also plays a substantial role in agricultural production. The agriculture industry in Micronesia is declining as it holds an incredibly small portion of Micronesia’s total exports compared to agriculture’s importance in the country’s GDP. Around seven percent of Micronesia’s exports are in agriculture, and the sector is seeing its impact decline overall, as few can afford to remain farmers. Credit access enables farmers to acquire better agricultural inputs, which functions to provide a long-term solution to poverty in Micronesia by raising income levels across the impoverished population, growing individual incomes and strongly affecting Micronesia’s economy.

Business confidence

Beyond simply limiting access for those seeking the startup funds to create a business, the lack of effective credit infrastructure has hampered overall business confidence and undermined faith in the prospects for sustained growth. Constraints on capital have limited the ability for pre-existing businesses to ensure continued access to the money necessary to provide financial stability. This lack of confidence, while largely sentiment-based, has produced an environment which harms overall prospects for economic activity.

The Good News

Fortunately, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has begun investing in local banking infrastructure to develop credit access in Micronesia as a part of its Private Sector Development program. In a series of loans beginning in 2006, the ADB has provided over $9 million to Micronesia, with the goal of improving bank credit and narrowing the gap between public and private employment to develop more jobs in the private sector. The program has thus far been a success, as the employment gap has decreased by 20 percent signaling the growth of private industry.  The ADB can offer loans for land ownership via a partnership with the Federated States of Micronesia Development Bank (FSMDB). It can also improve building infrastructure with one loan recipient saying that he was able to make his used clothing store earthquake-resistant to protect his business against a sudden loss in revenue.

Moreover, Micronesia is implementing reforms to protect financial institutions and improve the government’s capacity to register security rights in moveable properties. As a part of the World Bank’s Doing Business program, established in 2008, Micronesia had the goal of improving legal protections for creditors. Since then, the Micronesian government has developed more reforms which allow for the use of moveable assets as collateral when seeking credit and expanding security agreements to codify the use of such assets.

One cannot underestimate the importance of credit access in Micronesia as it plays an integral role in maintaining vital sectors of the Micronesian economy. Not only does credit impact the country’s economic growth, but it also helps lift individuals out of poverty by providing sustained sources of income. While Micronesia requires more work to develop stronger infrastructure, the Micronesian Government, with the help of the ADB, has begun taking steps in the right direction.

– Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Micronesia

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Micronesia in many ways, including an increase in trade as well as domestic and global security.

There are four basic income levels. Level 1 is extreme poverty described as the situation in which the family can barely afford to eat and must get water from wells. Level 2 is lower-middle income meaning the family can afford decent food and shoes. Level 3 is upper-middle income that means the family can afford running water and basic appliances. Level 4 is high income- family can afford a nice house and cars.

Micronesia is a Level 2 country, whereas the U.S. is a Level 4 country. The U.S. is in a position to help Micronesia’s economy grow and has been doing so since the Compact Free Association between the two countries was signed on July 18, 1947. Under the Compact, the two governments agreed to cooperate in mutual interest. Micronesia has been benefiting from this aid immensely and from the other side, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Micronesia have been equally impressive, including trade and security.

Increased trade between two countries

Whether an individual or country, the more money someone has, the more goods that someone can afford to buy. Furthermore, richer countries are more willing to trade with other countries. This trade lifts people out of poverty by letting the citizens of the poorer country gain access to more markets and sell more goods to richer customers. The newly-enriched people can then buy more expensive products. Thus, people in both countries continue buying from each other and both make money in the process.

The U.S. spent $49.9 million on foreign aid to Micronesia in 2016. This money enabled Micronesians to trade with the U.S. and other countries as well. Micronesia currently exports 26.6 percent of its GDP and has a total merchandise trade value (both imports and exports) of 74.3 percent of its GDP. The export rate is stable and the increase in the merchandise trade rate shows no sign of stopping.

Increased security for both countries

As one of the key features of the Compact Free Association, the U.S. provides defensive forces to help protect Micronesia. In return, Micronesians are free to join the U.S. military. This arrangement allows the U.S. to station military personnel near the East and South China Seas, where the majority of Asian trade and one-third of global trade takes place. As a result, the U.S. has a constant military presence in the area and can keep an eye on Chinese trade transactions, as well as 50 percent of the planet’s energy commerce.

Unfortunately, Micronesia wishes to end the Compact Free Association this year, stating that it heavily favors the U.S. If the Compact were to end, Micronesia could fall under the growing influence of China. This could make Micronesia a pawn in China’s plan to secure the China Seas and keep the U.S. out of these waters, ensuring that China can accomplish its military and national goals. In addition to undoing the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Micronesia, this would leave nearby U.S. territories, such as Guam and American Samoa, exposed and vulnerable.

Additionally, the U.S. would be cut out of a crucial trade route to Euroasia. This means that the U.S. would have to find other and possibly longer trade routes. The fact that U.S. goods would take longer to get to their trade partners would result in a higher price of those goods. The final recipients of the goods would be unwilling to pay such prices since they were used to getting these goods at lower prices. This would lead them to reconsider their overall trade relationship with the U.S.

Ways in which the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Micronesia cannot be overstated. Giving Micronesia more money means that Micronesians can afford to buy more American goods, resulting in the increased trade. Furthermore, it increases security for both countries by strengthening Micronesia’s overall relationship with the U.S. Both of these factors motivate the U.S. to continue helping Micronesia and, ultimately, both countries are better off with it.

– Cassie Parvaz

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Micronesia

Located in the northern region of Oceania, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of the island country, Nauru, and four prominent island states: the Marshall Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands. Modern education in the islands has grown leaps and bounds from its initial introduction via Japan during World War I, especially once the region became Americanized at the conclusion of World War II. With this American aid, the development of girls’ education in Micronesia began to grow swiftly and has continued ever since.

Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

According to a status report released by the United Nations Development Programme in 2010, the gap between male and female enrollment in Micronesian schools began to close after signing the Millennium Declaration. In 2009, the ratio of girls to boys in primary education was 0.96, compared to the ratio of 0.92 in 1994. In the same year, the ratio of girls to boys in secondary education was 1.02, and the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in the College of Micronesia was 1.14.

Despite this improvement, girls still scored lower than their male peers, though not by much. The same study shows that in the 2008-2009 school year, while boys garnered an average 65 percent test score, girls scored an average of 61 percent, pegging the overall test score at 62 percent.

Chuuk Women’s Council

Chuuk, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia, had become home to many different non-governmental organizations all throughout the 1980s. In 1984, these organizations began to congregate; by 1993, they had totally coalesced to create bigger waves and to form what is known as the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC).

Currently, the council is spearheaded by Christina “Kiki” Sinnett. In an Office of Minority Health blog post, Sinnett wrote, “The biggest challenge for women in Chuuk is access to education. Unfortunately, in many Chuukese households, girls are overlooked by parents when it comes to education decisions, meaning that they may do whatever it takes to educate their sons, often at the expense of their daughters’ education.”

She further elucidates that many programs the CWC offers are engineered for disenfranchised women who never got the chance to complete their schooling.

Although Chuuk has the highest student populous of all the Micronesian states, the mean amount of time a Micronesian adult spends in school 9.7 years; the United States’ mean amount time spent in school, however, is 12.9 years. This contrast means that while education globally falls short, girls’ education in Micronesia is utterly abysmal.

Promoting Female Wellness

The CWC doesn’t restrict itself to traditional educational lessons. The Shinobu M. Poll Memorial Center triples as a rendezvous for the council’s annual conferences, an educational domain and a wellness center for women. Within the premises, cancer screenings are performed, a dialogue regarding reproduction/reproductive safety is alive, and the doors to HIV tests are open.

In their Healthy Lifestyles Program, the CWC combats tuberculosis as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis promotes abstinence — Chuuk has the highest teen pregnancy rate of all the federated states. The organization also provides reading material for those in need of health-related education.

Another major staple of the CWC is advocacy work, especially regarding violence surrounding women. The establishment lobbied heavily for the age of consent to be legally altered from 13 years old to 18 years old within the nation’s regions.

With much work still left to do and many left uneducated on the harsh realities women face daily in the Federal States of Micronesia, the CWC also stands for “community policing” in their areas. Community policing is, essentially, the spreading of information and reporting of sexual misconduct to expel ignorance and miseducation from the community.

Girls’ Education In Micronesia

Sinnett, who succeeded her mother (the memorial center’s namesake) as CWC president, grew up an active fly on the wall of the nursing lifestyle. “I got to watch her go to work every day,” Sinnet told the Rural Health Information Hub, speaking of her late mother, “care for others, and be a valuable member of our local community.”

This conduct acted as a catalyst for her to become involved herself, and push to ameliorate girls’ education in Micronesia.

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in MicronesiaNASA has stated that the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically since 1950, from 320 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million. This has caused many critical issues, including rising temperatures, melting glaciers, abnormal natural disasters and rising sea levels. This problem poses a great threat to every country on Earth. However, it is a particular danger for Micronesia, a country of 607 tiny islands that are on average one to five meters above sea level.

Climate Change-Related Natural Disasters

The EM-DAT International Disaster Database indicates that climate change-related natural disasters are predicted to increase and become more intense. Micronesia is especially vulnerable to these disasters due to its location and the fact that much of the infrastructure in Micronesia is located in close proximity to the coast, inducing infrastructural damage and putting many lives at a growing risk.

Rising Sea Levels

The islands of Micronesia are endangered by rising sea levels. A recent Journal of Coastal Conservation article stated that the sea level surrounding the island of Pohnpei is rising by 10 to 12 millimeters per year, a dramatic increase compared to the global average of 3.1 millimeters per year. Other islands such as Nahtik and Ros have already lost 70 and 60 percent of their landmass respectively.

Political Action

Micronesia has already taken steps to lead on climate change policy. In 2007, they ruled out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the fastest growing greenhouse gas, in refrigeration and cooling units. As a result, other countries followed in banning HFCs. The Climate Change Act was passed in 2009 to use the knowledge of climate change and predictions to prevent island damage. Amended in 2013, the act now requires the government to adhere to climate change policy when risk planning.

Infrastructural Response

With knowledge of Micronesia’s challenges, the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii has developed suggestions that will improve the durability and safety of infrastructure in Micronesia to ensure adaptation to rising sea levels and natural disasters. New roads should be built a meter taller in many of the islands, including Chuuk and Yap, to mitigate the rise in sea levels that will occur during the infrastructural project. To maintain these roads, they will be elevated a foot every 25 years. They suggest this is a cost-efficient way to improve roads in the midst of increasing sea levels.  

To prevent natural disaster damage, the University of Hawaii suggests that buffers should be built along the coast to increase elevation. Further, new drainage systems should be established to prevent flooding and road decay. The drainage systems should be built beneath the roads with a shutoff valve to avert marine incursion.

If this advice is adopted, the infrastructure in Micronesia will be better equipped to withstand the increasing climate change challenges that face them in the near future.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr