On World Health Day, we think about Kiribati

On World Health Day, we think about Kiribati | ChildFund New Zealand

Disease outbreak has always been a major risk to Kiribati’s communities where cramped living conditions, poor access to healthy food, water, and sanitation, and limited healthcare facilities mean that disease can spread quickly.  Coupled with a lack of resources and an over-burdened health system, as well as high rates of non-communicable diseases (diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease), Kiribati is simply not equipped to cope with a major epidemic.

That’s why, with your help, ChildFund is distributing hygiene kits to nearly 18,000 people and raising awareness of the importance of social distancing in what is normally a very close knit community. To do this, we need to raise $64,000. The work ChildFund New Zealand is currently carrying out in Kiribati is funded by MFAT, meaning that every dollar Kiwis donate towards this appeal will be matched.

ChildFund works in in Betio, which located in the densely-populated country’s capital, South Tarawa.  There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as yet in Kiribati but there is an urgency among the partners ChildFund works with there including Betio Town Council, UNICEF, Red Cross, and WHO to deliver awareness raising activities.

Recent statistics show that approximately 22 percent of Kiribati’s population lives beneath the “basic needs” poverty line. Many people there live in unregulated housing without access to clean water, sanitation or other basic hygiene utilities. The country has an estimated TB incidence of 349 per 100,000, in 2018, and an estimated prevalence of diabetes in adults aged 25–64 years of 29%.

The Government has been broadcasting messages about hygiene, hand-washing, and social distancing on radio and texts via Vodafone in recent weeks and will also erect billboards. The ChildFund Kiribati team - in addition to distributing hygiene kits (which include soap, water cleanliness test and information) - is giving out life-saving information on COVID-19 prevention.

For the past 26 years, ChildFund has been working in vulnerable communities around the Pacific region, providing clean water, toilets for schools and homes, and training in good hygiene practices. It’s had a trusted presence on the ground in Kiribati for the past four years, with the ability to reach thousands of people.

ChildFund wishes to thank the New Zealand public for their support over the past three decades, which has enabled the organisation in its commitment to help children to thrive.