Sick Marshall Islanders struggling in US

12:56 pm on 3 January 2019

Marshall Islanders living in Oklahoma are struggling to access state and federal healthcare services.

Majuro Atoll which houses more than half of the Marshall Islands population

Majuro Atoll which houses more than half of the Marshall Islands population Photo: RNZI/Giff Johnson

National Public Radio reported about 2000 Marshall Islanders live in the American state.

It said some of the Marshallese there had health problems they attributed to American nuclear weapons testing on their islands.

After World War Two and until the 1980s, the Marshall Islands was a US-administered territory.

The US detonated 67 nuclear weapons there between 1946 and 1958.

A treaty allows the Marshallese to live and work in the US as indefinite legal residents but as non-US citizens they aren't eligible for many health services.

One Oklahoma resident from the Marshall Islands, Daina Joseia, said there was a direct connection between her diabetes and the nuclear tests.

The 60-year-old grandmother said the bombs contaminated the island's traditional foods like coconuts, fish and breadfruit.

When their traditional diet got too dangerous to eat the Marshallese started to consume processed, imported foods like spam and white rice, she said.

Marshall Islander, Terry Mote, who works as a Micronesian health adviser at the Garfield County Health in Oklahoma has called for his community to be given to access to Medicaid and Medicare.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs