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Marshall Islands

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The Marshall Islands, formally the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is a Pacific Ocean island republic situated just west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the nation is a part of the greater Micronesia island group. The country’s 53,158-strong population (as of the 2011 Census) is distributed over 29 coral atolls and 1,156 distinct islands and islets. The islands have marine borders with the Federated States of Micronesia (west), Wake Island (north), Kiribati (south-east), and Nauru (south). Around 27,797 islanders reside on Majuro, which includes the capital (as of the 2011 Census).

Throughout the second millennium BC, Micronesian immigrants progressively colonized the Marshall Islands, with inter-island navigation enabled by ancient stick maps. Europeans began exploring the archipelago in the 1520s, with Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar seeing an atoll in August 1526. Following that, further missions by Spanish and English ships occurred. The islands are named for British explorer John Marshall, who paid a visit to them in 1788. Historically, the people referred to the islands as “jolet jen Anij” (Gifts from God).

In 1874, the European countries acknowledged Spain’s sovereignty over the islands. They had been officially included into the Spanish East Indies in 1528. Later in 1884, Spain ceded the islands to the German Empire, which included them into German New Guinea in 1885. During World War I, the Empire of Japan seized the Marshall Islands, which were later united with other former German possessions to create the South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations in 1919. The United States captured the islands during World War II as part of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. The Marshall Islands, along with the other Pacific Islands, were thereafter included into the US-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Under a Compact of Free Association with the United States, self-government was established in 1979 and complete sovereignty in 1986. Since 1991, the Marshall Islands has been a United Nations member state.

Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to US-based institutions such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service. With limited natural resources, the islands’ prosperity is largely on a service economy, with some fishing and agriculture; US assistance accounts for a significant portion of the islands’ gross domestic product. The country’s currency is the US dollar.

The majority of Marshallese people live in the Marshall Islands, but minor numbers of immigrants come from the United States, China, the Philippines, and other Pacific islands. Marshallese, a Malayo-Polynesian language, and English are the two official languages. Almost the entire population of the islands is religious, with about three-quarters of the population belonging to either the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.


The islands lie about midway between Hawaii and Australia, north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia, and south of the United States possession of Wake Island, which it claims. The atolls and islands are divided into two groups: the Ratak (sunrise) and the Ralik (sunset) (sunset). The two island chains run almost parallel to one another, northwest to southeast, and cover about 750,000 square miles (1,900,000 km2) of water but just about 70 square miles (180 km2) of land. Each consists of 15 to 18 islands and atolls. The nation is made up of 29 atolls and five isolated islands.

Shark sanctuary

In October 2011, the government established a shark sanctuary encompassing approximately 2,000,000 square kilometers (772,000 square miles) of water. This is the world’s biggest shark sanctuary, increasing the global ocean area protected for sharks from 2,700,000 to 4,600,000 square kilometers (1,042,000 to 1,776,000 sq mi). Shark fishing is prohibited in protected seas, and any bycatch must be released. However, some have questioned the Marshall Islands’ capacity to police this zone.


From December to April, the climate has a dry season, and from May to November, it has a rainy season. Many Pacific typhoons begin as tropical storms in the Marshall Islands area and intensify as they travel westward toward the Mariana Islands and the Philippines.

The Marshall Islands are vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise due to their low height. The Marshall Islands, according to the president of Nauru, are the most threatened country in the world owing to climate change floods.

The population has outstripped the availability of freshwater, which is typically provided by rainfall. The northern atolls get 50 inches (1,300 mm) of rain each year, whereas the southern atolls receive about double that much. Drought is a constant concern across the island systems.


Population statistics from the past are unknown. The population was estimated to be about 10,000 in 1862. In 1960, the total population was about 15,000 people. The island’s population was 53,158 according to the 2011 Census. The capital, Majuro, and Ebeye, the principal urban hub on Kwajalein Atoll, are home to more over two-thirds of the inhabitants. Many people who have moved abroad, mainly to the United States, are not included. The Compact of Free Association enables them to freely move to and work in the United States. A significant number of Marshall Islanders, about 4,300, have migrated to Springdale, Arkansas, the greatest population concentration of locals outside their island home.

The majority of inhabitants are Marshallese, who are of Micronesian ancestry and came from Asia thousands of years ago. A small percentage of Marshallese people are of recent Asian origin, mostly Japanese. Majuro, the capital, and Ebeye, a heavily populated island, are home to almost half of the country’s inhabitants. Because to a lack of job possibilities and economic growth, the outlying islands are sparsely inhabited. The way of life in the outer atolls is mostly traditional.

The official language of the Marshall Islands is Marshallese, although English is widely spoken.


The United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands has 51.5 percent of the population; the Assemblies of God have 24.2 percent; the Roman Catholic Church has 8.4 percent; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have 8.3 percent. Bukot Nan Jesus (also known as Assembly of God Part Two), 2.2 percent; Baptist, 1.0 percent; Seventh-day Adventists, 0.9 percent; Full Gospel, 0.7 percent; and the Baha’i Faith, 0.6 percent are also represented. People who have no religious connection make up a relatively tiny proportion of the population. Majuro also has a tiny Ahmadiyya Muslim population, with the first mosque opening in the city in September 2012.

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