What You Need To Know

The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island country located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The islands share maritime boundaries with the Federated States of Micronesia to the west, Wake Island to the north, Kiribati to the southeast, and Nauru to the south. About 27,797 of the islanders (at the 2011 Census) live on Majuro, which contains the capital. Data from the United Nations indicates an estimated population in 2017 of 53,134. In 2016, 73.3% of the population were defined as being “urban”. The UN also indicates a population density of 295 per Km2 (765 people per mi2) and its estimated 2020 population is 53,263.

Micronesian colonists reached the Marshall Islands using canoes circa 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. They eventually settled here. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, starting with Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal and Miguel de Saavedra of Spain. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar reported sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from British explorer John Marshall, who visited in 1788. The islands were historically known by the inhabitants as “jolet jen Anij” (Gifts from God).
Spain claimed the islands in 1592 and the European powers recognized its sovereignty over the islands in 1874. They had been part of the Spanish East Indies formally since 1528. Later, Spain sold the islands to the German Empire in 1885, and they became part of German New Guinea that year, run by the trading companies doing business in the islands, particularly the Jaluit Company. In World War I the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1920, the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate. During World War II, the United States conquered the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in 1944. Nuclear testing began in 1946 on Bikini Atoll after residents were evacuated. Over the years, 67 weapon tests were conducted, including the 15-megatonne Bravo hydrogen bomb test that created significant fallout in the region. The testing concluded in 1958. Over the years, some cleanup was completed by the US government.

The US government formed the Congress of Micronesia in 1965, a plan for increased self-governance of Pacific islands. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1979 provided independence to the Marshall Islands, whose constitution and president (Amata Kabua) were formally recognized by the US. Full sovereignty or Self-government was achieved in a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Marshall Islands has been a United Nations member state since 1991. Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to U.S. based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service. With few natural resources, the islands’ wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture; aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency.

The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands, formed in 1982, are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the United States, China, Philippines, and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practises some religion, with three-quarters of the country either following the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.The US government formed the Congress of Micronesia in 1965, a plan for increased self-governance of Pacific islands. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1979 provided independence to the Marshall Islands, whose constitution and president (Amata Kabua) were formally recognized by the US. Full sovereignty or Self-government was achieved in a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Marshall Islands has been a United Nations member state since 1991. Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to U.S. based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service. With few natural resources, the islands’ wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture; aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency.
The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands, formed in 1982, are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the United States, China, Philippines, and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practises some religion, with three-quarters of the country either following the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.

Population: 53,066 (2016)
Area: 70.05 mi²

Currency

The Marshall Islands use the U.S. dollar as their currency. This has the advantages of not having the expense of running a central bank, the currency is completely convertible, and price stability is reasonably well ensured as the Marshallese do not have the ability to print currency.
ATM’s are available at Majuro and Kwaj, but it is best to take US dollars, as many places don’t have ATMs or don’t accept credit cards.

Climate

The climate has a dry season from December to April and a wet season from May to November. Many Pacific typhoons begin as tropical storms in the Marshall Islands region, and grow stronger as they move west toward the Mariana Islands and the Philippines.
Due to its very low elevation, the Marshall Islands are threatened by the potential effects of sea level rise. According to the president of Nauru, the Marshall Islands are the most endangered nation in the world due to flooding from climate change.
Population has outstripped the supply of freshwater, usually from rainfall. The northern atolls get 50 inches (1,300 mm) of rainfall annually; the southern atolls about twice that. The threat of drought is commonplace throughout the island chains.

Economy

The islands have few natural resources, and their imports far exceed exports. According to the CIA, the value of exports in 2013 was approximately $53.7 million while estimated imports were $133.7 million. Agricultural products include coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits, pigs and chickens. Industry is made of the production of copra and craft items, tuna processing and tourism. The GDP in 2016 was an estimated $180 million, with a real growth rate of 1.7%. The GDP per capita was $3,300.
The International Monetary Fund reported in mid 2016 that the economy of the Republic had expanded by about 0.5 percent in the Fiscal Year 2015 thanks to an improved fisheries sector. A surplus of 3% of GDP was recorded “owing to record-high fishing license fees. Growth is expected to rise to about 1.5 percent and inflation to about 0.5 percent in FY2016, as the effects of the drought in earlier 2016 are offset by the resumption of infrastructure projects.”

Education

The Ministry of Education (Marshall Islands) operates the state schools in the Marshall Islands. There are two tertiary institutions operating in the Marshall Islands, the College of the Marshall Islands and the University of the South Pacific.

Health

A 2007–2008 study revealed that the rate of type 2 diabetes is among the highest in the world; 28% over the age of 15; 50% over 35. Approximately 75% of women, and 50% of men are overweight or obese. This is mostly due to the adoption of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. About 50% of all surgeries performed on the island are amputations due to complications from diabetes. There are no facilities for renal dialysis.
According to a report by the BBC, life expectancy is 67 years for men and 71 years for women.
Remember to take you daily medication with you, because there are basically no pharmacies in the Marshall Islands. Also, please remember to take diarrhoea medication and mosquito repellent with you, since there are a lot of mosquitoes in the Marshall Islands
The sun-burn factor is extremely high, and fresh drinking water is not readily available (even in restaurants/establishments).
Always wear footwear when walking in the surf/coral as there are a lot of things that can injure, poison, bite or infect you.

Safety

The crime rate of the Marshall Islands is VERY VERY LOW, and you DO NOT have to worry about going outside at night.
The only hazard can come from drunken youths.

Languages

The official languages of the Marshall Islands are English and Marshallese. Both languages are widely spoken.

Transport

Air travel between the islands is provided by Air Marshall Islands. However, the company is fraught with financial and technical problems, so one or both of the two planes in the fleet are often downed for days, weeks, or months at a time.

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