Safe drinking water for families in Kiribati

Safe drinking water for families in Kiribati

Accessing clean, safe drinking water is a struggle that Kiribati mum-of-four and preschool teacher Teaeto knows only too well, facing it every day at home and work.  

Until, that is, the preschool she works at in St. Betero, in Betio which is in the largest township in the Kiribati's capital South Tarawa, had a solar-run water distillation unit installed through ChildFund. 

The water distillation unit uses solar power to create clean water accessed by children and staff at the preschool and some nearby families. 

“Our children now have water whenever they feel thirsty," Teaeto says. 

"Mothers no longer need to buy un-purified homemade bottles of drinking water for their children, now all they need to do is to make lunch for their children." 

Now Teaeto has seen first-hand the efficiency of solar-run water distillation, her wish is for more people living around Betio to be able to access fresh drinking water as well. 

Water from the unit now supports the 180 children who attend the preschool, as well as households in the surrounding community. The unit is looked after by the preschool teachers.

Teaeto is a long-time resident of Betio, moving there as a teenager from the island of Nonouti and marrying her local husband. She says people in Kiribati prefer to live with their extended families which makes the issue of water an even bigger concern.  

“To get our drinking water we use our neighbour's water on request, and we can only get 2 of their 20-liter buckets from the public water," Teaeto says. 

"This is not enough for my whole family for three days before public water runs again." 

With the support of the Australian Government and in collaboration with the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP), solar water distillation units are being installed at community sites in Kiribati, including preschools like this one. The low-tech systems sustainably remove salt and bacteria from available water, using the power of the sun. 

More solar distillation units will be installed including in the outer islands and ChildFund Kiribati is also working in partnership with Plan International Australia.

ChildFund Kiribati ran a workshop for around 30 preschool teachers, including Teaeto, and church leaders in Betio. The workshop covered positive parenting, early childhood development, and good WASH practices such as water purification and oral hygiene. Preschool teachers were also trained on how to undertake basic maintenance on the solar unit, and to monitor water use.

In addition, ChildFund team members are conducting water testing during household visits in Kiribati where they also talk with families about the importance of safe, drinking water and hygiene and are distributing kits that include water and sanitation hygiene (WASH) items like soap and sanitary products including to families in the outer islands.

Teaeto says that she hopes other children receive the same opportunity with the distillation units as the program rolls out to other islands and communities throughout Kiribati.

ChildFund Kiribati's work connecting children and families with clean, safe drinking water is also made possible with funds from New Zealand supporters and the New Zealand Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

Much more is needed to be done to provide children and families with safe, clean drinking water and sanitation in Kiribati and we need your help to do it. You can support our work here.