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Rising Oceans, Climate Change, Food Aid, and Human Rights in the Marshall Islands
Climate change impacts are expected to produce more frequent, longer and unpredictable drought periods with further saltwater intrusion in the Marshall Islands. As a result, a significant return to traditional food cropping is unlikely. This will lead to an increased dependence on food aid, especially in the outer atoll populations. An examination of the nutritional content of food aid suggests it is likely to lead to poor health outcomes. Dependence on food aid has gradually increased over the past 70 years in the Marshall Islands, starting with population relocation because of war and nuclear testing and most recently because of climate change. The authors argue that the health impacts of the supplemental imported diet, combined with migration to population centers, may result in an even greater prevalence of chronic diseases, and exert pressures that lead to more communicable disease, further exacerbating the syndemics in the Marshall Islands. The authors conclude that food aid donors and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) government have human rights obligations to ensure that the people in the Marshall Islands have access to adequate nutrition. Accordingly, donors and the government should re-examine the content of food aid and ensure it is of sufficient quality to meet the right to health obligations.