Common Diseases in the Marshall IslandsThe Marshall Islands are a string of islands located about midway between Hawaii and Australia. They gained their complete independence from the U.S. in 1986. Common diseases in the Marshall Islands are quite similar to those in the United States.


Communicable Diseases

However, to avoid certain diseases, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following vaccinations for those traveling to the area.

Zika is a risk, as well as typhoid and Hepatitis A. Visitors need to be vigilant against mosquito bites, and avoid eating food from street vendors. Zika can also spread through sexual intercourse, so condoms are recommended. Typhoid can spread through contaminated food or water.

Since there is no vaccine for Zika, travelers should take special care. They should pack mosquito repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, stay in air-conditioned areas, make sure there are window screens, use permathin to treat tents and other materials (shoes, socks, shirts, etc.) and sleep under a mosquito net.

Persons infected with Zika frequently don’t feel sick. It is important to prevent mosquito bites three weeks after returning. This is because if a traveler has the virus, a mosquito can bite her and potentially spread the disease to other people.

Persons with Zika should not take aspirin-based products or ibuprofen. Rest and drink liquids, and see your doctor.


Non-Communicable Diseases

In terms of other common diseases in the Marshall Islands, cardiovascular issues lead the way. Second are diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases, with chronic respiratory problems third.

Life expectancy in the Marshall Islands hovers around 65 years. According to a 2013 report, the deadliest diseases in the nation were diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Because of climate change, the Marshall Islands are slowly disappearing. Many islanders have relocated to various regions of the United States. However, despite finding employment more easily in the U.S., the majority find the American health care system in the hard to navigate.

In the Marshall Islands, consultations are $5 per visit. Marshall Islanders living on the mainland tend to send family members who need care to Oregon or California for more generous benefits that are not available in Arkansas, where many of them live.

One of the common diseases in the Marshall Islands is cancer. Another is thyroid disorders. Diabetes is very high among Marshall Islanders and those living in the United States. A combination of nuclear testing and the U.S. Military presence, combined with needed relocation due to unlivable conditions on the island have contributed to the diabetes/cancer/thyroid problems.

Their diet may also be a cause for many of these problems. Marshall Islanders traditionally had a diet of fresh fish, breadfruit and coconut. Now, it’s processed foods and white rice. However, education and attempts to improve quality of life in the Marshall Islands may improve the nation’s citizens’ health, as well.

Gloria Diaz

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in the Marshall IslandsThe Marshall Islands consist of two strings of 29 coral atolls and five islands in the North Pacific between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. Due to a lack of natural resources and high unemployment rates, the island struggles with poverty and accompanying diseases.

For tourists, the top diseases in the Marshall Islands are Zika virus and typhoid. However, far more diseases inhibit and threaten the lives of those who live on the islands year-round.

Every day, the inhabitants of these islands struggle to remain healthy due to both communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

Communicable Diseases

Neglected tropical diseases (NTD) are some of the top diseases in the Marshall Islands. They are a group of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases that typically affect impoverished communities that lack proper sanitation.

According to the CDC, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development and can create a cycle of disease and poverty. Examples of neglected tropical diseases include dengue fever, leprosy, rabies and hookworm infection.

Other communicable diseases include Hepatitis, schistosomiasis, meningitis, and Lassa fever. These diseases are hard to control due to poor water supplies, personal hygiene issues, overcrowding and a lack of good medical facilities.

Noncommunicable Diseases

Noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death in the Marshall Islands. Diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases often develop as a result of reduced mobility and obesity.

In 2011, Pacific health ministers declared that noncommunicable diseases were an urgent crisis in the Pacific Islands. Additionally, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Embassy asserts that the influence of Western culture has led to an increase in consumption of unhealthy food, alcohol and tobacco.

Additionally, the government has recognized the increase in heart conditions and diabetes and is working on ways to influence lifestyle changes and increase access to healthcare.

According to the World Health Organization Country Cooperation Strategy for Marshall Islands (2013-2017), “because of the unique situation of Pacific countries with their limited systems and human resource capacities, it is essential to have modest, realistic and cost effective plans.”

The Marshall Islands have already succeeded in eradicating some vaccine-preventable diseases from the country. A large-scale mass drug administration campaign eliminated lymphatic filariasis in the Marshall Islands on March 30, 2017. Consequently, there is hope for the eradication of even more disease with the necessary cooperation between the government and citizens of the Marshall Islands.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Springdale, Northwest Arkansas, is just a few thousand miles from the Marshall Islands. Springdale has become a prominent relocation center for Marshall Islands refugees. As the “poultry capital of the world,” Springdale has offered Marshallese refugees employment through Tyson, a frozen food company.

The Marshall Islands is a small coastal republic consisting of a few main islands and coral atolls. Rising sea levels, intense tropical storms and droughts have disrupted life in the Marshall Islands. Climate change is at the root of these issues. Here are 10 facts about Marshall Islands refugees.

10 Facts About Marshall Islands Refugees

  1. They are also known as “climate refugees”, which is not an internationally recognized term. The Geneva Convention in 1951 does not have guidelines for nations dealing with “climate refugees.”
  2. More than one-fifth of the Marshall Islands population relocated to northwest Arkansas. Springdale is currently home to more than 7,000 Marshall Islands refugees. Springdale contains Marshallese street signs, newspapers and radio stations promoting the native language.
  3. Marshallese youth are attending college with plans to eventually return home. Many of them received government grants to obtain a degree and return to the Marshall Islands if they work for environmental efforts for at least a year.
  4. The first female head of state of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, was also the first to receive a PhD as a Marshallese refugee. Heine has become one of the pioneers of higher education amongst all Islanders in hopes that most, if not all, will return with a greater knowledge on ways to save the Marshall Islands.
  5. The Compact of Free Association has allowed for Marshall Islands refugees to migrate visa-free to the United States. It was created as a favor after Marshallese land was used as a site for nuclear testing.
  6. Rising sea levels could leave Marshall Islands refugees stateless. With their land being destroyed by climate change rapidly, the Marshallese are losing their claim to sovereignty. This will mean becoming dependent upon other nations and traces of their past being lost. The 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons does not require any country to assist any Marshall Islands refugees if their land was engulfed by the Pacific.
  7. Marshall Islands refugees are the first Pacific Islanders to migrate to northwest Arkansas. Hawaii, California and Oregon are the only other places where Pacific Island refugees have relocated.
  8. Some Marshall Islands refugees require medical attention because of the effects of nuclear testing done by the United States on Bikini. The “Bravo Shot” that was tested in Bikini was “1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”
  9. Not all Marshall Islands refugees care to return home. Places such as Springdale have provided stability for many Marshallese, which is a preferred alternative to the issues plaguing their homes back in the Marshall Islands.
  10. New eco-friendly business and inventions have been a part their activist efforts. The University of the South Pacific created a way to purify water through solar desalination, just one of the many new ideas created by Marshall Islands refugees.

Despite the disastrous effects of global warming, the Marshallese are making headway on slowing its path until they can find permanent solutions.

Mackenzie Fielder

Photo: Flickr

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of the major diseases in the Marshall Islands to be wary of are the Zika virus and typhoid. Here is some information about avoiding these two diseases and why prevention is so important.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus is transmitted through mosquitos and causes flu-like symptoms that last up to a week. Although this is mild compared to other diseases and it is rare for someone to present symptoms at all, the real danger occurs when a pregnant woman catches the virus, as this can cause congenital brain abnormalities such as microcephaly. Microcephaly, the medical term for a smaller-than-expected head size in an infant, often indicates an under-developed brain, explains the CDC, because the human skull expands to accommodate a growing brain.

The government of the Marshall Islands has reported that mosquitos in the area are infected with Zika and that the virus is spreading. Recommended prevention includes wearing long sleeves, remaining indoors and practicing safe sex, as the virus is often sexually transmitted. Although there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, people can avoid infected mosquitos by emptying or covering areas of stagnant water — including tires and pots — since these are the places where mosquitos are likely to breed.

Typhoid fever, on the other hand, is spread through bacteria in food and water. According to the CDC, there is no risk of transmitting the disease in utero, but it is a more serious condition. Using proper hygiene and cooking techniques can prevent typhoid. A vaccine exists, and medication is available to prevent the spread of the disease. When contracted, typhoid also causes flu-like symptoms, and can ultimately lead to death as a result of diarrhea and dehydration. Gastrointestinal diseases like typhoid are among the major diseases in the Marshall Islands, but, since 1990, instances of the disease has decreased by 91.6 percent.

Today’s major killer in the Marshall Islands is non-communicable: cardiovascular diseases. Top risk factors for the country are high Body Mass Index, high glucose levels and dietary issues. High blood pressure, low rates of physical activity and smoking are also considered to be risk factors.

Citizens in the country, as well as travelers, can avoid contracting the major diseases in the Marshall Islands by using these prevention tactics.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands are two strings of atolls located in the North Pacific between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. Their main exports are marine goods, coconut products, and handicrafts. Marshallese climate can be unpredictable, with climate change directly impacting the islands. In addition, securing sufficient sources for fresh water is a constant struggle. Because of these issues, many inhabitants of the islands live in poor circumstances, with bad health and little access to energy sources.

Since their year of independence in 1986, the Marshall Islands Government has been engaged in an uphill battle of physical, economic and environmental survival. Fortunately, there are a number of international lifeguards who are helping to keep the Marshallese government afloat.

The United States (U.S.)
One problem the Marshall Islands Government does not have to worry about is military security. Though it is a sovereign state, its military protection is provided by the U.S. But security is not the only service that the United States provides to the islands. The U.S. affords educational, medical and infrastructural aid, and donates funds in an effort to help the islands eventually attain economic self-sufficiency.

Roughly 50 percent of the revenue that the government obtains is gathered from foreign aid, and a large portion of this comes from U.S. coffers due to an agreement entitled the “Compact of Free Associations” which exists between the two nations.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Though it is an entity within the structure of the United States government, FEMA merits particular mention. Operating under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA’s standard focus is the prevention, response and recovery from disasters that occur within U.S. borders. However, due to the Compact of Free Associations, the agency is also obliged to assist the Marshall Islands when disasters arise.

Just this year, the Marshall Islands have been experiencing one of the worst droughts in their nation’s history, collecting only a quarter of the rainfall that they typically obtain. On April 1st, Marshallese President Hilda Heine declared a state of emergency, and on April 28th FEMA announced that it has allotted federal disaster assistance to the Marshall Islands Government. Millions have been spent in past years on similar disasters.

The Marshall Island’s southern neighbor, Australia, is dedicated to supporting the islands in the economic and climatic issues. Between the Marshall Islands and two other North Pacific states, the Australian Government has pledged almost $10 million within the next fiscal year.

Australia’s goal is to increase access to water, sanitary facilities, and education. Additionally, Australia is helping to introduce a new public school system and spreading gender equality awareness throughout the islands. Many of these objectives have been reached through the sponsored delivery of water containers and the establishment of better education and scholarships to continue on to higher schooling.

The United Nations (U.N.)
The Marshall Islands and other low-lying countries are particularly susceptible an increase in global temperature.  It is projected that low-lying countries like the Marshal Islands will be submerged, or at least uninhabitable, if the global temperature rises just 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels.

In response to this dilemma, the U.N. has held multiple conferences over the last months in an effort to promote awareness and compliance to goals regarding carbon emissions. Just last month 175 countries were gathered in Paris to sign an agreement on the reduction of fossil fuel usage. The U.N. noted that this conference marked the largest number of countries to sign an international agreement at one time in the history of the world.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
A less recognized, but equally engaged organization is the Japan International Cooperation Agency. JICA focuses on what they call “inclusive development,” which emphasizes individual initiative in evaluating one’s own situation to improve it. JICA simply provides the resources necessary to carry out these improvements.

For the Marshall Islands, JICA is carrying out programs to improve waste control and worldwide education programs. JICA has been training volunteers to travel world-wide in an effort to address these issues, and in 2015 alone almost 3,500 volunteers traveled to the pacific to assist in humanitarian aid projects.

Despite the aid that these organizations are providing to the Marshall Islands, many inhabitants of the country live without the basic necessities of life. Further efforts are needed bring these individuals out of poverty. According to the World Bank, development must begin within the Marshall Islands Government. They commented, “The growth in the economy would be strengthened and sustained by the government’s commitment to reform.” The rest of us simply need to do our part.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr