Prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable in the Marshall Islands

Release date: 

Jan 11 2017

Rocky shoreline of exposed coral at low tide in Majuro, Marshall Islands. Photo credit: Robert Ford via iStock

The needs of the most vulnerable, particularly women, children, and the elderly, are being put first in a resilience-building project that helps deliver safe freshwater to communities living in the Marshall Islands. These communities are facing increasing threats to water security due to climate change.

Together with UNDP and other partners, USAID Adapt Asia-Pacific supported the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to conduct a gender equity and social inclusion assessment to evaluate the impacts of climate change and water insecurity on different vulnerable groups and to come up with an action plan with targeted, and budgeted, interventions that would address specific vulnerabilities experienced by women and other at-risk groups.

This gender equity and social inclusion assessment and action plan is done to support the preparation of the Marshall Islands Integrated Water Resilience Program (RIWRP) for financing by the Green Climate Fund.

The RIWRP is designed to help the Marshall Islands government achieve their national priorities and goals related to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction by improving water security, strengthening national water governance, and ensuring effective management of water systems at all levels. The Marshall Islands government recognized that in order to achieve their goals, they need to fully include and address the needs of women and other vulnerable groups of people, particularly those living in remote and under-serviced areas.

Climate change impacts are not gender or generation neutral. Increases in extreme weather conditions, such as droughts, cyclones, and floods, can disproportionately affect vulnerable groups and the least empowered people in society. Women in Pacific countries, for example, often bear the double burden of productive and reproductive activities. They are often responsible for collecting water and firewood, which may require them to travel for long distances by foot. As droughts and storms intensify, they would likely have to travel further to collect these resources for their families.

Through the RIWRP design process, USAID Adapt Asia-Pacific specifically identified and assessed the differential impacts of climate change and water insecurity on not only women, but also on men, youth, children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. The assessment recommended a range of targeted water resilience interventions that respond to the identified vulnerabilities at the community-level. These include ensuring that all members of the community have the knowledge and ability to use and conserve water resources and enhancing the capacity of vulnerable groups to fully engage in, and benefit from, water resilience solutions.

The assessment also recommended that national level policy reform work is required to ensure compliance with international water standards and, importantly, it stressed that gender equality and social inclusion strategies needs to be mainstreamed across all RIWRP activities, from planning and implementation through to monitoring and evaluation. These strategies should also be aligned with relevant national policy goals and development objectives and support the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information on the Marshall Islands Integrated Water Resilience Program (RIWRP), contact: