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Micronesia's extreme drought: Relief efforts underway as conditions worsen

Forecast Map of a worsening drought in the Micronesian region.
National Weather Service (NWS) Guam
NWS Guam map of a worsening drought forecast in the Micronesian region.

Aworsening drought is spreading across the Micronesian region.

On Friday, The U.S. Drought Monitor upgraded drought conditions from severe to extreme for Yap proper (Yap State) and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) coral atoll of Wotje and nearby islands.

Severe drought persists across several other locations, including the Marianas’ Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

National Weather Service Guam’s meteorologist Landon Aydlett says this forecast is playing out exactly as he expected.

“The caveats with this dry season drought period of El Niño, we're not expecting it to be quite as robust or long-lasting,” he said.

Assessment teams and residents from Yap state are reporting agricultural strain with taro patches drying up, coconuts drying out, and reports of yellowing crops.

A number of state disaster coordinating offices, the FSM’s Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Emergency Management, and RMI’s National Disaster Management Office, are assisting with ongoing efforts to get relief supplies like water, rice, jerry cans, and RO (reverse osmosis) units to islands in need.

Organizations, including USAID, Catholic Relief Services, and the International Organization of Migration, are also helping coordinate efforts.

Naina Rao serves as Isla Public Media's first News Director. She's extensively produced for National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Culture Desk, and 1A.