Top Diseases in MicronesiaThe Federated States of Micronesia includes over 600 tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean, divided into four main states: Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae. Due to its island nature, the Federated States of Micronesia’s health situation does not change as often as more central countries’ might.

The leading causes of death in the Federated States of Micronesia have historically been endocrine and nutrition-related diseases; metabolic diseases like diabetes mellitus; diseases of the respiratory system like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and diseases of the circulatory system. Parasitic and infectious diseases in Micronesia are also a common cause of hospitalization.

The number of diseases in Micronesia preventable by vaccine has decreased in recent years, while waterborne and foodborne diseases, like typhoid, as cause for hospitalization have remained high. Dengue fever, hepatitis A, and Zika virus have all had random outbreaks in the Federated States of Micronesia over the years.

Zika is currently a very real risk in the Federated States of Micronesia, and pregnant women are advised not to travel there. Sexually transmitted infections are prevalent, along with leprosy, and a drug resistant tuberculosis. Chikungunya and Zika are both diseases carried by mosquitoes, making bug bite prevention a necessary step in staying healthy.

Each state in Micronesia has its own healthcare services, including a central hospital with at least the minimum primary and secondary level services available.

The development plan for the Federated States of Micronesia’s healthcare includes improving:

  • national environmental health
  • food and water sanitation
  • maternal and child health
  • controlling diabetes and cancer
  • controlling unhealthy substance abuse and tobacco use
  • mental health services
  • treating tuberculosis and other infectious endemic diseases
  • hospital preparedness.

The Federated States of Micronesia is a tiny nation in the middle of a vast ocean, with a population of 104,196 as of 2017. It faces risk from diseases that many other countries do, though there is less risk of said diseases spreading to other countries.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of 607 islands spread over one million square miles in the Pacific Ocean. Here are eight facts about Micronesian refugees you should know:

  1. The U.S. occupied and administered the FSM from 1947 to 1979. During this time, the FSM’s population grew significantly due to the introduction of modern medicine. The U.S. also developed a wage economy in the FSM, encouraging Micronesians to migrate to population centers in search of work.
  2. When the FSM declared independence in 1979, the U.S. dramatically reduced the funds it contributed to the Micronesian economy, which shrunk the FSM and forced many Micronesians to return to their home islands. However, there remained on the islands a large population of skilled, educated and mobile individuals.
  3. The majority of Micronesian refugees today come to the U.S., specifically to Hawaii. This immigration pattern began in 1986 when the FSM signed a Compact of Free Association with the U.S. This gave Micronesians the right to freely migrate to the U.S. and to significant economic aid in exchange for the use of Micronesia’s extensive territory as military testing grounds.
  4. The U.S. tested nuclear weapons in Micronesia before signing the Compact without the FSM’s consent. In 1946, the U.S. informed the inhabitants of Bikini Atoll that they would have to relocate. Over 12 years the U.S. detonated bombs on the Marshall Islands, leaving behind radiation equal in scale to 7,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs. The residents of Bikini Atoll were never able to re-inhabit their home.
  5. Some of the aid and protections given to Micronesians under the Compact have rolled back. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a bill that cut off Micronesians’ access to Medicaid and food stamps.
  6. This rollback has hit Micronesians hard, as a disproportionate number of refugees living in Hawaii are homeless and unsheltered; Hawaii has the highest cost of living of any state in the U.S. Additionally, the FSM has the highest rate of diabetes in the world. The reason many refugees come to the U.S. in the first place is for access to more comprehensive health care.
  7. Despite the fact that Micronesian refugees pay taxes to the U.S. and volunteer for the military at twice the rate of American citizens, they cannot vote. As a result, many Micronesians feel the government treats them unfairly.
  8. Currently, most of the Marshall Islands (part of Micronesia) are less than six feet above sea level. Rising sea levels will likely spur waves of refugees to immigrate to Hawaii and the U.S. mainland in the near future, making it essential that the U.S. government address present and future living conditions of Micronesian refugees in the U.S.

It is important to keep these eight facts about Micronesian refugees in mind in the face of an administration that has so far proven itself unsympathetic to the plights of refugees from Mexico and Syria. Micronesian refugees have not received as much media attention as those of refugees from the aforementioned countries, but aid is still needed for those who flee Micronesia.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Micronesia
Poverty in Micronesia? The lush beauty of the tropical island group known as Micronesia implies a paradise of plenty, yet the Federated States of Micronesia remains a nation burdened by poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Micronesia:

  1. Nearly one in five people live on less than $2 a day. Though the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of an impressive 607 separate islands across its four major states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, the population totals approximately 100,000. As of 2013, over 17 percent of the population lived on just $1.90 a day, well below the poverty line.
  2. Malnutrition is a major contributing factor. A lack of variety in available foods results in hunger, especially among children, and impedes the opportunity for citizens to rise above poverty in Micronesia. Many families rely on a local diet full of processed meats, canned fish, and carbohydrate-heavy produce such as breadfruit and yams, resulting in malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20 percent of pregnant women are anemic in the broader Pacific Island region where Micronesia lies. Sadly, 29 of every 1,000 babies born in Micronesia currently do not survive past their first year.
  3. The global definition of poverty may not apply. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielagaoi went on public record in September 2016 criticizing the United Nations’ current formula to measure poverty across the globe. This criticism stems from his consideration of the practical realities of life in the Pacific, in which it is common for young adults to have many children. He went so far as to say the existing figure of poverty, which is defined by an individual earning less than $400 per week, was “very stupid.” In response, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Group has appointed a dedicated committee to create a more appropriate replacement.
  4. A manufactured scarcity of resources is a leading cause. A drought in early 2016 caused the Asian Development Bank to lower the GDP projection for the Federated States of Micronesia to a mere two percent. Meanwhile, a broader problem of persistent societal disruption contributes to this slowing of growth. Initially examined in a 2004 study known as the Jenrok Report, life in the Pacific was described as a myriad of deficiencies. Overcrowding, contaminated ground wells and a lack of many home connections to a central water system cause sickness and contributed to poverty. Yet the Pacific governments consistently fail to spend all funds provided by other countries in foreign aid. This false scarcity shows that substantial improvement must be done at the administrative and infrastructural levels to provide for the people of Micronesia.
  5. Work is being done to improve it. The Salvation Army has worked tirelessly for more than two decades in the states of Pohnpei and Chuuk to reduce poverty, providing direct aid by supplying food and establishing social and spiritual development services. Another nonprofit organization, the USEAO, is headquartered in Seattle and was founded in 2013. They are similarly dedicated to improving the lives of citizens in Micronesia by contributing direct aid and concentrating on solving the problem of infant malnutrition.

Thanks in part to the efforts of organizations such as the Salvation Army and the USEAO, poverty-relief in Micronesia is improving. The Asian Development Bank GDP projection for the coming year is higher than 2016, and efforts to increase tourism in the Federated States of Micronesia show promise for a future where poverty is a thing of the past.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for people of all walks of life to give back to the world and help communities develop sustainably. Founded in 1961, the mission of the Peace Corps is “to promote peace and friendship” around the world.

The structure of the Peace Corps has evolved greatly to advance with the rise of globalization and the development of new strategies and technologies that address the challenges developing nations face. Peace Corps volunteers often have very rewarding and fulfilling experiences. Volunteers gain community level development experience and new perspectives of life.

Here are just five examples of the hundreds of unique Peace Corps volunteer positions available:

1. Teach English in Micronesia– Volunteers teach English literacy to children in elementary school who speak the languages of their local islands. They work with host teachers to motivate and teach the children. While living with a host family, a volunteer in this position will experience exciting local development work.

2. Work as a Community Health Outreach Volunteer in Mozambique– Volunteers work at the community level to address needs for HIV prevention and treatment, malaria prevention and community health facility support. Volunteers live in a home with other volunteers in a rural setting with a thatched or tin roof.

3. Help Manage Coastal Resources in the Philippines– Volunteers work with local fishing communities, the government and partner organizations to implement conservation and sustainable use for marine resources. The sites are often rural and local transport is primarily small boats and bikes.

4. Work with Youth in Morocco– Volunteers teach English and help youth gain leadership skills, environmental awareness and business skills. They work in youth centers and also partner with community programs that address health and education.

5. Assist in Agriculture Development in Paraguay– Responsibilities involve working with small farming families to help them optimize their resources to ensure food security and enhance quality of life. This is a specialized opportunity to utilize Spanish language skills and also learn Guarani in order to communicate in more remote areas.

While the two-year Peace Corps commitment may appear daunting to some, there is a reason why the application process is competitive and employers love to see Peace Corps service on resumes.

The experience provides meaningful, important service to people in developing countries, while helping you to gain valuable fieldwork experience and broaden your perspective on how people live around the world. Currently, the Peace Corps has 6,818 volunteers and trainees. You could soon be a part of this dedicated group.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Peace Corps, Youth Health
Photo: Flickr