Kiribati with its rising sea water, periods of drought and sporadic rains, is the face of climate change in the Pacific.
Accessing clean, safe water is a daily challenge for children and families living there as Kiribati has shallow groundwater that is contaminated with sea water, rubbish and other waste, as the main drinking water source.
Tragically, Kiribati has the highest infant mortality rates in the Pacific linked to diarrhea, dysentery, and gastroenteritis from unsafe drinking water. So, for ChildFund Kiribati, working with communities to increase access to clean, safe drinking water and to improve sanitation, is a focus.
Current projects include installing solar power water distillation and purification equipment around Betio and the outer islands. Additionally water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) kits are being distributed to every household.
"Our team recently spent several days on Maiana to get feedback from the community and while locals are very grateful for the kits, they shared with us their concerns about coping in emergencies and the impact the current drought is having on the supply of fresh water," ChildFund Kiribati programmes director David Kakiakia says.
The ChildFund team also distributes containers for safe water storage and work closely with the Betio Town Council on ongoing household water testing and community clean ups where staff and community members work together to remove rubbish from public areas. While hand-washing stations have been installed at 19 community meeting places in Kiribati, most of which have been preschools, with ongoing training with preschool teachers about how water, sanitation and hygiene affect children.
Kiribati’s unsafe drinking water problem has been highlighted with testing by ChildFund showing a decline in drinking water quality in just one year. Testingin December 2021 showed 73% of the 1,875 households that participated in the water quality programme had unsafe or likely-unsafe drinking water due to bacterial contamination.
Ground water in Kiribati is only 1 to 2 meters deep and is easily contaminated, particularly in densely populated areas like Betio, and with inadequate waste disposal, it's a significant problem in Kiribati. Inundation of land by seawater, human and livestock waste, and graves around houses and water sources are also causes of contamination.
There is limited public water, which is only available to some households and even then it's only on every two to three days, and it is also contaminated. With old leaky pipes, only a third of piped sources tested was safe, and less than 25% of the 22 rain water tanks tested were safe.
ChildFund's ongoing work in Kiribati includes household visits by team members to increase awareness in families about unsafe water and the importance of good water quality. Purification, safe water storage and good hygiene practices around washing drinking cups and bottles is important to keep children and family healthy.
We work with communities with the aim that the community becomes self-sufficient in providing the basics children need to thrive, and so we (with support) can move on to help another community.
With your support, we can help these communities reach the goal of self-sufficiency in providing the basics to children through better access to safe water, sanitation, education, healthcare and child protection, along with more livelihood opportunities for their families.
You can help ChildFund to do even more projects to help children and communities to access clean, safe drinking water.