Climate, Health, and Migration from the Marshall Islands

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The East-West Center has initiated a collaborative research project on climate-induced migration from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. mainland. A $477,079 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) supports this International Research and Applications Project (IRAP), which is designed to conduct international, decision-based research on climate-sensitive health risks in partnership with the Pacific Regional Integrated Science and Assessment (RISA) program.

Climate change that affects temperature, rainfall, and sea level already threatens the populations of many small islands and atolls. Associated health impacts include gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, and vector-borne diseases. With a population spread across 34 coral atolls and islands, the Marshall Islands’ healthcare systems are unprepared to confront the impacts of climate change, which exacerbate overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.

In response to these complex and interacting factors, many Marshall Islands residents are relocating to other areas. This project will expand the current state of knowledge about vulnerability to climate change in the Marshall Islands, particularly where climate stressors lead to health impacts. It aims to improve the use of climate information to better serve migrant communities from the Marshall Islands, informing health professionals, policymakers, and community organizations in both sending and receiving locations about the climate-related health risks that migrants are experiencing now or are expected to face in the future.

The Pacific RISA program is a collaboration among the East-West Center, University of Hawai‘i International Pacific Research Institute, University of Hawai‘i Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawai‘i School of Law, University of Hawai‘i Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai‘i Department of Geography, National Weather Service Pacific ENSO Applications Center, NOAA National Center for Environmental Information, Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, and various community groups and government agencies throughout the region.

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See all current East-West Center Research Projects.