Whom Shall I call? Not the Ghost Busters!

The following is a new regular column in Tia Belau called “Words From Orakidorm”, which comes out every Thursday issue. 

Red Cross Anticipates ‘Humanitarian Crisis’ in RMI- Combination of water shortage, crop failures a ‘double-whammy’” is announced by Radio New Zealand International, May 13, 2013 and all over the Internet you can read about it. Obviously, these are effects of extreme weather conditions, resulting from climate change, a topic of huge debate among scientists. In Palau, we know that you can no longer go fishing during the day without having a cooler filled with ice because the fish you catch spoils a lot faster these days. We know that we can actually go spear fishing at night without having to put oil on your skin to keep warm and that may include WD40 because the sea is much warmer these days. We also know that there is a dis-coordination between the moon and tide levels where about 30 years ago when the moon was at the horizon the tide was at its highest level. And when the moon was at “noon”, the tide was very at its lowest. Clearly, it is much warmer in Palau and the trade winds, both easterly and westerly winds have changed its season through out the year. Because these issues are real in Palau, the debate among scientists regarding climate change becomes immaterial. I am waiting for someone to bring the issue of moon and our flag. But that is not why, I am writing this article. This article is about “humanitarian crisis”.

First, Palau can’t sit idly by and let our brother and sisters in the Marshall Island suffer without at least attempting to be part of the solution. After all we are members of international, regional and sub-regional associations that can at least take stab of trying to help the Marshallese in this time of “crisis”. To neglect doing something about this issues borders being unethical.

Secondly, there is sense of passiveness regarding what is a “crisis”. In RMI, there is an immediate crisis, water shortage. There is an intermediate crisis, food shortage. And then there is a long-term crisis, running out of land such as happening in the Marshalls and Kiribati. To ignore these “crises” as different stages of adaptation to climate change is not only stupid, it is not prudent.

Thirdly, this similar process is taking place in Palau in a different form. To ignore the statistics around the risks of NCDs (tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activities and alcohol abuse) will be like ignoring water and food shortage as immediate and intermediate signs of a long-term crisis. In Palau, we are ignoring these signs and because we are, long terms solutions may be late in coming to avert this crisis from happening. This particular crisis has arrived in this generation and will devastate the next generation and perhaps the next. The devastation will come when NCDs (Diabetes, Hypertension, Stroke, Heart and Lung Diseases) become trans-placental or perinatal, when a mother who has these diseases bears children. What happens to the child that is born to diabetic mother? There are lots of diabetic women in the childbearing age in Palau

Such ignorance (sometimes actively or by choice) to data is not only irresponsible but the result will be unethical. If are well informed, if we do our homework and if we make decisions based on data, I suspect we will end up with the same conclusion. Then we can spend our time debating on possible solutions. That can only happen when we have properly informed ourselves as communities but especially those who are decision makers. Because when it comes to the crisis of NCDs, even the Ghost Busters will not do, because the data is real.

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