14 Jun 2013

Red Cross expects staff to be in Marshall Islands for six months

6:50 am on 14 June 2013

The International Federation of the Red Cross which has launched a significant drought relief effort in the Marshall Islands expects to have staff there for six months.

This is despite the Marshalls not having a local Red Cross Society.

The IFRC and the Red Cross societies from New Zealand, Australia and Kiribati have been providing help to the more than 6,000 people on 15 atolls affected by about six months with virtually no rain.

An Australian Red Cross official, Peter McArdle, says the international agency's response is unorthodox because the Marshalls is one of the few countries in the world with no Red Cross Society.

Mr McArdle has been involved in the installation of reverse osmosis machines but he says, in the long term, they are not the solution, because of the difficulties of obtaining parts and ongoing maintenance in remote locations.

He says low-tech solutions such as solar distillation to produce potable fresh water and improving storage capacity for water are key to surviving future droughts.