Covid-free Marshalls keen to talk recovery amid pandemic

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SUVA, Fiji (RNZ Pacific/Pacnews) — The Marshall Islands says it's ready to work with Covid-19 free countries in the Pacific to create economic opportunities amid the pandemic.

Its ambassador to Fiji, Albon Ishoda, said despite having no cases of the coronavirus, the country has been heavily impacted.

Ishoda said with its border closed, the country's main source of revenue, fisheries, has been hit hard.

He said the government wants to discuss access to healthcare, support for infrastructure and adapting to climate change in the region.

Ambassador Ishoda said the Marshall Islands is also looking to its Micronesian partners to create corridors to breed economic opportunities.

“Hopefully signaling to the larger Pacific countries that if we're Covid-free and you are, what is stopping us from developing opportunities to better cope or to help us respond better economically to the current global recession.” 

Ambassador Ishoda said the Marshall Islands has also been faced with other health threats prior to the pandemic.

He said last year, the Marshalls closed its border because it faced multiple outbreaks from dengue and measles.

“And now with Covid-19, our systems are not equipped to handle the pandemic as we have seen in other countries.

“For many of our people, we have a huge diaspora in the United States that have been affected tremendously by Covid-19.”

Ambassador Ishoda said the government is working with other stakeholders to bring Marshallese stranded in the U.S. home.

He said many of his people understand that by not returning home from the U.S. sooner, they are helping keep the virus away from the Marshall Islands.

“For public health, this so Marshallese culture that they'll sacrifice a little bit more until a cure is found so they can safely return home without bringing the virus back to our shores."

Ambassador Ishoda said he is also concerned at the impacts of climate change amid the pandemic.

He said one area that needs attention is the climate displacement issue.

“We're seeing parts of it play out right now —  the access to healthcare, the rights to receive healthcare needed to beat these types of pandemics.

“Covid-19 is a litmus test to ourselves, to our infrastructures and our ability to cope with the larger and bigger problem of climate change.”

Ambassador Ishoda said the Marshall Islands would like to see more action from other countries.

“As a small island country, we tend to become the first to feel these real impacts from these events that are created outside of our region and end up being the first to impact us such as Covid-19 and climate change,” he said.

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