For example, if you are in need and a relative is getting rent money or good wages from Uncle Sam, you move in with the relative, or in the madrid accommodation. From Majuro, capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the secretary of health services sends word: “Ebeye never out of insulin.” Other officials agreed. Who to believe? High prices and poor selection of food? It is explained that the merchants on Majuro supply Ebeye’s shops and don’t appreciate subsidized U. S. competition from Kwaj. And what about the scant water and electricity? I’m told that new plants will be finished this year.
Shortly after I left the studio flats to rent in london, the U. S. use agreements on Kwaj expired, and some of the landowners occupied several islands on the missile range, asserting their right to the land and demanding significantly increased rent and direct negotiations with the U. S. During that uncertain period, the U. S. Congress enacted the Compact of Free Association, which will provide to the Marshall Islands government nearly 400 million dollars over 30 years for payment to the Kwajalein landowners in direct income and for projects. Their development plan calls for a causeway to link Ebeye to six other islands, new roads, elementary schools, a high school, renovated housing, and a new dock. Hope for Ebeye rises as the walls that enclose it promise to fall.
ALTHOUGH EBEYE is in the worst-case category, its problems are shared to some extent throughout the trust territory. Despite an immense flow of American money, effort, and goodwill, many islands still suffer from a shortage of water and power, poor to nonexistent roads, struggling educational systems, meager public services, few job opportunities, limited natural resources, and, at the top of the list, inadequate health care. Much blame must be laid to the region’s geography, especially difficult when it comes to delivering adequate health services.
In the Marshall Islands, as elsewhere, every island is supposed to have a health aide, operating out of a well-equipped dispensary, with access to a radio in the event of an emergency. In a life-or-death situation a patient is picked up by boat or plane, if possible, and taken to the nearest hospital, often hundreds of miles away, or to Hawaii.
The bill can be astronomical. And it is paid for by the government. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is going broke trying to meet the cost of modern medicine. When I asked President Amata Kabua about the story, and, sadly, he admitted that it was true. “But what are we to do?” he appealed to me. “We are a Christian nation. We can’t simply allow people to die when doctors in Honolulu can save their lives.”
New Nations in the Pacific was in Majuro, it was reported in the press that the republic’s department of health had overspent its budget, and that all other departments would be cut to provide the necessary funds. The Marimed Foundation, established by two altruistic Bostonians, Dr. Lonny Higgins, a gynecologist, and her lawyer husband, David, expects to address this very problem with its specially designed sailing ship, equipped with the latest in medical technology.