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Republic of Marshall Islands seeks to address health threats

Majuro —To better respond to new and evolving public health threats, the government of the Marshall Islands has convened representatives from government agencies, civil society and local communities to assess its current capacity to prevent, reduce and respond to health threats.

The Marshall Islands, like many other Pacific Islands, are not immune to infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies, and its communities are increasingly feeling the pervasive impacts of climate change.

Changing weather patterns result in more intense tropical storms, longer and harsher droughts and a rise in climate-sensitive diseases.

A blood drive held at the University of the South Pacific and organized by the Muslim community. Photo courtesy of Karen Earnshaw

The last decade has seen the Marshall Islands face numerous public health threats, all of which have had serious consequences for local communities.

Led by the Ministry of Health and Human Services, and with support from the World Health Organization and Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association, officials are currently hosting a five-day workshop to address these challenges.

“It is critical that we work collaboratively across our government agencies, and with regional and local partners and communities, to build resilience and collective capacity to prevent, mitigate and respond to public health threats,” said Minister Kalani Kaneko, Ministry of Health and Human Services.

The workshop, which began on Jan. 28 and ends Feb. 1, provides an opportunity for the country to collectively assess its current capacity to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats required under the International Health Regulations (2005), and to develop a roadmap to strengthen areas of weakness. The Ministry is also using this forum to prepare for the future undertaking of a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) – the formal evaluation for the country to assess its implementation of the IHR.

The IHR (2005) is a legally binding international agreement, signed by 196 countries across the globe, including the Marshall Islands, to help all countries prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.

The IHR (2005) sets forth the core capacities countries need to detect, assess, report and rapidly respond to public health threats, whether due to disease outbreaks, risks to food, chemical and radiation safety and natural disasters.


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