SPC Geoscience Division


Marshall Islands begins drought-related Post Disaster Needs Assessment

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marshall drought

05 August 2016
Severe drought in the Marshall Islands associated with the strong El Nino, led to the call for a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA).

The assessment is not only the first for the Marshall Islands, it’s also the first for the Northern Pacific and the first assessment of an atoll country worldwide and will involve a lot of learning for the nation, the Pacific and the world.

The PDNA is being led by the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in collaboration with the European Union, the Pacific Community (SPC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The official opening of the PDNA on Monday 01 August by the Chief Secretary of the RMI Government Justina Langidrik commenced the schedule of activities and was followed by a three-day refresher training program for RMI sector specialists.

RMI Minister of Finance, Brenson Wase, reflecting on the PDNA, stated that resilience is the keyword in the PDNA, and the assessment will in effect enable the Government to know, if not the exact, a very accurate cost of economic loss to the people of RMI.

“Effective contingency planning will depend on the availability of reliable data,” said Wase.

“This PDNA is critical in informing the national budgetary process.”

According to Wase, Cabinet had established a disaster fund for the national and local Governments to enable future disaster preparedness and response.

The Minister of Finance adds that non-government organizations play an important role in the drought recovery process and the cooperation between national entities and that non-government organisations should be encouraged to work with local governments.

Chief Secretary of the RMI Government, Justina Langidrik said, “The PDNA is the beginning for us. We must commit our time and effort to fully inform the national development process.

“We now have the unique opportunity to assess and analyse all the social and economic sectors that were affected by the drought. That, in turn, will help us to articulate and prioritize drought recovery actions, fine-tune national planning and provide guidance on financing.”

The national PDNA exercise has come at an opportune time for RMI, as it takes place immediately after the national consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals in collaboration with the UN. Local participants identified data collection and management as a critical component of meeting the SDG targets, including national targets on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

“Sustainable development must be risk-informed; recovery follows sustainable development principles and must be informed by social and economic assessments of the impacts of this drought. This will be critical as the country strengthens its capacities to prepare for and respond to such shocks in future and increase resilience,” said Langidrik.

The three-week period following the training event will involve in-country specialists from the sectors affected by the drought, together with overseas experts to analyse the social and economic impacts of the 2015-2016 drought. The PDNA will conclude with a Strategic Plan, developed as part of the process, and will be presented to the Government by early next month.

For more information, or media interviews (if applicable) please contact:
Denise deBrum-Reiher, Media Officer, Office of the President, RMI; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Emily Moli, UNDP Knowledge Communications Analyst, Tel: 3227 504; mob: 719 1112; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Lauren Robinson, SPC Media Relations, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or +679 337 9250

Credit photos: David Hebblethwaite



In the years leading up to 2010, the Pacific Island leaders decided to integrate the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (formerly known as CCOP/SOPAC) into the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. To implement this historical alignment of the two organisations, the leaders called to arms an internationally renowned geoscientist, who immediately left his well deserved retirement on Viti Levu's Coral Coast and reported to duty at Mead Road, Suva.

The then-incumbent, Dr. Russell Howorth, had been an integral part of SOPAC from its early years in the 70's, and still continues to be one of the main stalwarts of the organisation. Over the years, he has been instrumental in bringing about the prestige and recognition that SOPAC has in the region today.

A native of Yorkshire, Great Britain, Dr. Howorth did his PhD. in Geology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, after a brief stint as a mining geologist in Zambia. He first visited the fledgling CCOP/SOPAC while on secondment at the University of South Pacific (USP) in early 1979. CCOP/SOPAC was then a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional project with less than 10 staff members.

During his early years in the South Pacific, he was best known for his achievement in establishing the Certificate in Earth Science and Marine Geology. The Certificate brought three organizations -- CCOP/SOPAC, USP, and Victoria University of Wellington -- together in the early eighties to offer what was a unique opportunity for an academic course with a practical focus for geologists and technicians in the region.