Marshall Islands - 1.1 Marshall Islands (RMI) Humanitarian Background

Disasters, Conflicts and Migration 

Natural Disasters  



Comments / Details 



In 1997-1998, a severe drought hit the Marshall Islands, which lasted for over a year. The drought was caused by the El Niño weather pattern, which led to significantly reduced rainfall. The impact was devastating, with widespread crop failure, water shortages, and food insecurity. Some islands even had to be evacuated due to the lack of freshwater. The damage was estimated at US$25 million. 

In 2013-2014, the Marshall Islands experienced another severe drought that lasted for over a year. The drought was caused by a combination of factors, including El Niño and climate change-induced changes in rainfall patterns. The impact was severe, with widespread crop failure, water shortages, and increased food prices. Depletion of wells and water catchments, salinization of ground water and insufficient desalinization capacity left an estimated 5,000 people without enough drinking water or adequate food. The damage was estimated at US$15 million. 

In 2015, a similar drought event affected the northern and central island groups. 

In 2022, a drought affected Aur, Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Jabot, Jaluit, Lae, Lib, Likiep, Maloelap, Mejit, Mejjato/Ebadon, Namdrik, Namu, Utrok, Ujae, Wotho, Wotje 






Hepatitis A, Mumps Periodic outbreaks 

2000: Cholera outbreak in Ebeye, Kwajalein Atoll and Lae Atoll 

2015-2016: Zika in Majuro 

2015: Chikungunya Outbreak in Majuro and outer islands 

2019-2020: Dengue fever 

Extreme Temperatures 





Localised flooding from heavy rain, high tides, storm surges and rogue waves. 

In 2014, the Marshall Islands experienced severe flooding, particularly on the island of Majuro. The flooding was caused by a combination of high tides, storm surges, and heavy rainfall. The impact was severe, with widespread damage to infrastructure and homes, and significant economic losses. The damage was estimated at US$12 million. 

In 2021, the Marshall Islands experienced severe flooding once again, particularly on the island of Ebeye. The flooding was caused by a combination of high tides, storm surges, and heavy rainfall. The impact was severe, with widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, and significant economic losses. The damage has not been fully assessed yet, but it is expected to be significant. 



1991 Tropical Cyclone Zelda Category 1 

  • Formed: November 27, 1991 

  • Dissipated: December 7, 1991 

  • Highest winds: 10-minute sustained: 110 km/h (70 mph) 

  • 1-minute sustained: 150 km/h (90 mph) 

  • Lowest pressure: 975 hPa (mbar); 28.79 inHg 

  • Fatalities: None 

  • Areas affected: Marshall Islands 

1997 Typhoon Paka Category 5 

  • Formed: November 28, 1997 

  • Dissipated: December 23, 1997 

  • Highest winds: 10-minute sustained: 185 km/h (115 mph) 

  • 1-minute sustained: 295 km/h (185 mph) 

  • Lowest pressure: 920 hPa (mbar); 27.17 inHg 

  • Fatalities: None, reported Damage $580 millio 

  • Areas affected: Marshall Islands, Guam, Mariana Island. 

2015 Cyclone Nangka Category 4 

  • Formed: July 2, 2015 

  • Dissipated: July 18, 2015 

  • Highest Winds: 10-minute sustained: 185 km/h (115 mph) 

  • 1-minute sustained: 250 km/h (155 mph) 

  • Lowest pressure: 925 hPa (mbar); 27.32 inHg 

  • Fatalities: 2 confirmed 

  • Damage: US$200 million  

  • Areas affected: Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands, Japan 

Insect Infestation 


Pests and diseases, nearly all of which are exotic to the Marshall Islands, cause significant losses to agriculture. The most serious of these include insect pests such as the breadfruit mealybug, coconut scale and spiralling whitefly, which cause severe damage to many food crops and seriously affect crop productivity and overall food security. 




Volcanic Eruptions 



High Waves / Surges 


Tsunami affected Majuro in 1915  

During high wind, storm or cyclone events storm surges typically inundate low laying areas. 

Mar 2014: King tides/storm surge (Majuro and Arno Atoll) 

2015 Tropical Storm Bavi 

  • Formed: March 10, 2015 

  • Dissipated: March 21, 2015 

  • Highest winds: 10-minute sustained: 85 km/h (50 mph) 

  • 1-minute sustained: 95 km/h (60 mph) 

  • Lowest pressure: 990 hPa (mbar); 29.23 inHg 

  • Damage: $2.25 million  

  • Areas affected: Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands, Philippines 

Jul 2015: Tropical Storm Nankga (Majuro) 

Jan 2018: King tides (Majuro and outer islands) 

Mar 2018: Tropical Storm Bavi (Ujae Atoll, Kwajalein, Ebeye) 




High Winds 



Man-Made Issues 

Civil Strife 



International Conflict 



Internally Displaced Persons 


Permanently displaced people from Bikini Atoll have been resettled in Kili, Ebeye and Majuro because of the nuclear testing carried out in the Bikini Atoll. 

Refugees Present 



Landmines / UXO Present 




The below map shows the areas vulnerable to droughts and population figures.


For a more detailed database on disasters by country, please see the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters.

Seasonal Effects on Logistics Capacity 

Seasonal Effects on Transport 

Transport Type 

Time Frame 

Comments / Details 

Primary Road Transport 


Cyclone season can affect island roads and restrict travel between islands. During the cyclone season high winds associated with high seas and especially king tides can affect road access and cause damage to infrastructure and make roads impassable.  

Air Transport 

November- April 

Strom and cyclone season affects scheduled flights. 

Waterway/ Inter- Island Transport 


Inter-island transport from Majuro forms the critical supply link to the outer islands. During the storm season, April to November, inter-island transport is affected by high seas which will delay deliveries, especially to islands that are not part of a larger atoll i.e. Kili island. All other atolls having a lagoon can, in almost all cases, receive vessels for resupply. 

Seasonal Effects on Storage and Handling 

Activity Type 

Time Frame 

Comments / Details 


All year 

The climate in RMI is hot and humid with the central and southern island receiving the most rainfall. The northern islands tend to be drier. In general climate does not severely affect the storage of goods, however climate-controlled facilities may be required for sensitive products.  



High tide and heavy winds can cause issues with interisland transport and handling. Rain can cause interruptions and delays in handling operations, especially in exposed dock areas. 

Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response 


The 2019 National Disaster Risk Management Arrangement (NDRMA) is the guiding document regarding RMI's disaster management. The National Disaster Committee (NDC) is the designated lead body for implementing the NDRMA. Being directly accountable to the Cabinet, the NDC is responsible for the provision of technical advice and resource support to facilitate the implementation of disaster management programmes and for ensuring that an adequate and reliable disaster control and coordination mechanism is in place to carry out humanitarian response. The primary office accountable for the disaster management activities is the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO). The country operates an eight-cluster system called the National RMI Clusters or National Emergency Operations Center members (NEOC members) which is coordinated by the NDMO:  


Source: NDMO RMI 

National Disaster Committee (NDC) 

The National Disaster Committee (NDC) was established under the 1987 Disaster Assistance Act. The duties of the Committee are summarised in the following extract from the Act: 

  • Mitigating the effects of any disasters and in the event of disaster shall be responsible for directing the conduct of disaster response operations. 

  • Monitoring and reviewing national disaster risk management arrangements across the DRM continuum 

  • Maintaining compliance with the Disaster Assistance Act 1997 

At times of national emergency or disaster, the National Disaster Committee is to be convened by the Chair the NDC the Chief Secretary or in the absence of the Chair, the Deputy Chief Secretary. Under normal conditions, the NDC meets on a quarterly basis to assess, review and if necessary, endorse projects, programs and activities within the scope of the NDRMA. The NDC may meet at any other time as necessary. 

The membership of the NDC includes: 

  • Chief Secretary – (Chairperson) 

  • Secretary of Works, Infrastructure and Utilities 

  • Secretary of Transportation, Communications and Information Technology 

  • Secretary of Natural Resources and Commerce 

  • Secretary of Health Services and Human Services 

  • Secretary of Culture and Internal Affairs 

  • Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade 

  • Secretary of Finance, Banking and Postal Services 

  • Attorney General 

  • Director of Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination 

  • Director of Economic Policy Planning and Statistics Office 

  • Commissioner for Public School System 

  • National Police Commissioner 

  • General Manager of Air Marshall Islands 

  • General Manager of National Telecommunications Authority 

  • General Manager of Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation 

  • Director of RMI Ports Authority 

  • Representative from the Private Sector 

  • Representative from the NGO’s 

  • The NDMO and Weather Service are permanent Technical Advisors to the NDC and may be called upon when required. 

In addition to the ‘standing members’ listed above, the Minister may appoint representatives of other organisations, either for specific issues for a specific time, or for an indefinite period, or in the role of observers. 

National Disaster Management Organisation (NDMO) 

The NDMO is responsible for disaster risk management activities in line with government policy, legislative requirements and the strategic priorities of the NDC. 

The NDMO is responsible for: 

  • Representing RMI at regional and international disaster related forums 

  • Coordinating the implementation of the NDRMA 

  • Monitoring subsequent changes and updates of NDRMA through version control procedures 

  • Functioning as the liaison point for all disaster related activities with regional and international agencies 

  • Providing administrative and secretariat support to the NDC. 

  • Developing and maintaining effective relationships with relevant regional bodies to ensure synergies between national, regional and international DRM programmes. 

  • Conducting annual audit and report to the NDC on the testing and reviewing of plans supporting the NDRMA 

  • Providing technical support for all DRM related training design and development 

  • Providing technical assistance in developing and conducting exercise management programs  

  • Conducting annual audit on ministry, department and agency DRM resources, developing an annual report for submission to the NDC. 

  • Providing technical assistance to all ministries, local governments, departments, and agencies 

  • Providing technical support in the development of public awareness information and programmes 

Maintaining the National Emergency Operations Centre in a state of operational readiness, including the facilitation of training and exercises, post-disaster and post-exercise debriefs and preparing reports for the NDC highlighting critical areas for improvement. 

Military assets based in Kwajalein have been used in the past with responses to the Ebeye and the Kwajalein Atoll. The involvement of the USAG is at the current time limited to this. However, there may be a possibility with further communication that USAG could assist in a greater capacity if mechanisms and arrangements are put in place well beforehand. 

For more information on government contact details, please see the following link: 4.1 Government Contact List 


The legacy of U.S nuclear testing in RMI has adversely affected human security, public health, and environmental safety and caused the loss of customary land and cultural heritage. RMI is highly urbanised with around three quarters of the country’s 58,791 people (World Bank, 2019) resident in the two urban centres of the capital Majuro and Ebeye, the most densely populated island in the Pacific.  

There is incomplete analysis of hardship, but basic needs poverty and hunger is rising. The young urban poor are among the most marginalised with dependence on the cash economy, but fewer social welfare protections. RMI is heavily reliant on external assistance, with grants averaging 60% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). RMI’s rapid population growth and the contamination of its natural environment have made subsistence farming and fishing unviable for the vast majority of Marshallese.  

United Nations 

The UN has been present in RMI since 1984, with 11 agencies implementing programs: IOM, ILO, UNDP, UNESCAP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNISDR, UNOCHA, UNODC, UN Women and WHO. In March 2023, the UN Resident Coordinator Office based in Micronesia appointed a Country Coordination Officer in RMI to support and coordinate the United Nation Joint presence mission in Majuro.  

Marshall Islands Red Cross Society 

The Red Cross established an office in Majuro in 2013. An active and important partner of the Government in national Disaster Risk Management programes with an established and active volunteer arm, delivering first aid training to a wide range of organisations and communities. Red Cross established an independent radio network throughout the outer islands.  

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) 

There are several smaller Local NGOs providing support to who are strongly supported through local church and women’s groups. Non-Government Organizations play a key role in supporting disaster risk reduction and disaster management activities. Their close links with communities are of particular value in public awareness and education programmes relating to both risk reduction and disaster management and they can provide support to the successful implementation of the priorities of the NDC. For example, Women United Together for the Marshall Islands has links to 23 of the 24 outer island/atolls; working closely with community groups and plays a key role in several areas of community preparedness including the retention of traditional knowledge. 

For more information on humanitarian agency contact details, please see the following link:4.2 Humanitarian Agency Contact List 

Private Sector 

The private sector can provide capacities and resources to support disaster risk reduction and disaster management programs and should be treated as stakeholders in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. The private sector is part of the community in a disaster risk management context; business continuity is a major factor in the post disaster period with many businesses providing essential services which are critical in early recovery stage. The development of protocols to formalise the relationship between government and the private sector are therefore essential. 

For more information on private sector contact details, please see the following link: 4. Contact Lists 


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