Category Archives: Health

This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa. Copyright: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Social Dimension of Climate Change

The Minister for Environment, Lands & Agricultural Development and Chairman to Parliamentary Climate Change Committee, Hon. Tiarite Tioti Kwong launched the Kiribati Documentary on Social Dimension of Climate Change on Friday 02 August 2013 at Parliament club, Ambo.

The documentary supported by the EU Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States (GCCA: PSIS) Global Climate project, shows the impacts of climate change on the densely populated island of South Tarawa, Kiribati’s capital.

“Variability is threatening our existence as a nation and people, but Climate Change is now deriving us from the basic necessities of life, water, food, health and our ecosystem,” he said.

“To meet this challenge, all stakeholders within country and externally need to work as one. Mainstreaming climate change into national priorities to be able to come up with focused solutions to work against Climate Change — whether through adaptation investments, technical assistance or public awareness is therefore an urgent call.” Hon Tiarite Tiooti Kwong stated.

Watch the full video below.

Also read…
WHO links climate change and disease increase
Climate Change and Health
Climate Change and People

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Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

WHO links climate change and disease increase

Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Local IKiribati women. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms there is a clear correlation between climate change and increases in diseases in the Pacific. For the Pacific, WHO identified malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea, typhoid and leptospirosis are among the important climate-sensitive diseases, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) reports.

Dr Rokho Kim, WHO’s Environmental Health Specialist based in Fiji said evidence suggests that certain weather conditions are related to an increase in certain diseases.

“We have found that after a heavy drought in a country, there is an increase in cases of diarrhea. In a situation like that, we advice the Ministry of Health to prepare for possible increases in diarrhea cases. It is important to strengthen notifiable diseases surveillance programme which includes training of doctors to report to the government and respond quickly and timely to the situation.

“This early warning system is very effective. We are working with governments to establish reliable good surveillance programme and well trained doctors to diagnose climate-sensitive diseases at the early stage.

WHO estimates that 150,000 people die from climate related diseases every year.

Read the full story on Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Read more about the potential health effects of climate change
Ciguatera poisoning
Diarrhoeal disease
Dengue fever

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

Wet weather fails to dampen public hearing spirits

Morning rain did not dampen the mood at Kiribati’s first-ever National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change on Friday, where leaders addressed the nation on the importance of everyone working together to build national resilience against climate change impacts.

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Official page of the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change

Thankfully, despite the heavy rain overnight, the skies opened up to permit a late start to the event at Bairiki Square, which coincidentally or not translates from i-Kiribati to English as the “place where things happen”.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square on Friday 19 April, 2013.

His Excellency Anote Tong was the first of 10 panelists to take the stage to address the crowded public square where he reiterated the importance of building both consensus and public understanding of climate change and climate change impacts in Kiribati.

“We must prepare the next generation to address the effects of climate change,” His Excellency said*.

These words were more dramatically reiterated in a moving youth performance by Kiribati Health and Family Association (KHFA) at half-time, where, in the skit, a young girl in tears asks her dad “Dad, what will happen to me and my Kiribati in 50 years time?*”

Next, second panel member Kiribati National Council of Churches Chairman Bishop Paul Mea took the stage.

Bishop Mea told the public, both in attendance and aired live across the country, that climate change was a social issue.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front of other panelists and before the nation.

Human interference continued to contribute to the impacts of climate change, Bishop Mea continued, citing Tarawa causeways Nanikai and Teaoraereke as well as the Dai Nippon contributing to the loss of some of the nation’s islets.

Leader of the Opposition Party (Karikirakean te I-Kiribati Party) Dr Tetaua Taitai next acknowledged climate change as a serious issue, but one that should not be the main priority for Kiribati. Instead the more immediate issues of population growth, overcrowding, water and food security, unemployment, education and health should be first addressed, he said.

He added, where climate change was a focus, more attention was needed to how the nation utilised its own resources with that of external resources and that it was necessary for experts to have a sole focus in the context of Kiribati instead of generalising the nation with the rest of the world.

The public raised questions to the panel in person and via telephone and Facebook throughout the day.

*Please note: quotes have been translated from i-Kiribati to English

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Sunset in Tarawa.

Government and SPC talk joint strategies

The Government of Kiribati and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have been working hard to develop a new joint country strategy (JCS) between SPC and the Government of Kiribati.

JCSs are multi-year plans that align the priorities of SPC member countries with the services that SPC can provide. The new plan will focus on a strategy for 2013 to 2015.

Discussions on the strategy, which took place early April 2013 on Tarawa, involved identifying the country’s key development priorities and matching these with the expertise SPC can provide in sectors ranging from fisheries to statistics.

The mission follows a review of the first JCS (2008–2011) carried out in October 2012, which found that SPC in close collaboration with the Government of Kiribati had effectively implemented activities and services in line with Kiribati’s development priorities.

David Teaabo, Pacific Plan Desk Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, commented that the JCS approach is very much a joint approach and relies on full engagement by the government.

According to Mr Teaabo, the collaborative approach promoted by the JCS makes it possible to improve coordination and collaboration efforts at national level to enable Kiribati to pursue its development priorities.

The mission team was led by Mike Batty, (Director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division) and included representatives of SPC’s Strategic Engagement, Policy and Planning Facility as well as its Statistics for Development Division. The SPC team’s Kiribati counterparts included Mr Teaabo as well as representatives of the National Economic Planning Office.

Mr Batty said that cooperation between the government and SPC had been excellent, which was a testimony to the commitment by both parties to ensuring that Kiribati’s development priorities are translated into concrete actions.

World Water Day 2013 will be celebrated in Kiribati on  Monday 25 March at Bairiki Square

Celebrate World Water Day with a splash

Our limited freshwater supply is essential to life as well as the human and economic development of Kiribati.

To recognise the importance of freshwater supply in Kiribati, the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities (MPWU) together with Environment and Conservation Division (ECD), Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the country’s leading water and sanitation projects would like to invite you and your family to celebrate World Water Day 2013 with us on Monday 25 March at Bairiki Square.

World Water Day 2013 will be celebrated in Kiribati on  Monday 25 March at Bairiki Square

World Water Day 2013 will be celebrated in Kiribati on Monday 25 March at Bairiki Square

World Water Day is a United Nations initiative held annually around the world to highlight the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

This year’s theme is ‘Water Cooperation’, which recognizes the need for cooperation to manage groundwater and rainwater resources, information exchange and financial and technical cooperation in Kiribati.

In the spirit of water cooperation, the South Tarawa Sanitation Improvement Sector Project (STSISP), Kiribati Adaptation Program – Phase III (KAPIII) and Water and Sanitation project in the Outer Islands of the Republic of Kiribati Phase I (KIRIWATSAN I) are proud to be sponsoring and participating in the MPWU’s event to showcase how different bodies and government departments are working together and with the public to help with the country’s freshwater supply.

Gathering freshwater from a well in Kiribati.

Gathering freshwater from a well in Kiribati.

The projects will provide demonstrations (such as how to fix a leaking tap), a ‘water-theme’ quiz with prizes, kid’s games (have you heard of ‘eels and ladders’?) and general information about their projects at the event. Taken Bairiki and Rurubao schools will also wow crowds with local performances about water.

MPWU Water Unit acting officer in charge Moiua Aroito said World Water Day was an opportunity to recognise the importance of working together to ensure a freshwater supply Kiribati’s future.

“Demands for water are increasing to satisfy the needs of South Tarawa and Betio’s growing population.

“Water resources are also being threatened by other factors such as urbanisation, pollution and climate change,” he said.

“Water cooperation is our key to succeeding in the future to manage our limited water resources and ensure that everyone benefits so please show your support and come participate in our event.”

World Water Day runs from 11.30am to 2pm on Monday 25 March at Bairiki Square.

About the projects

KAPIII

The Kiribati Adaptation Program – Phase III (KAPIII) is a five-year climate change adaptation project under the Office of the President. The objective of KAPIII is to improve the resilience of Kiribati to the impacts of climate change on freshwater supply and coastal infrastructure.

Freshwater supply projects include providing support to the MPWU and PUB; the installation of rainwater harvesting works and infiltration gallery works in North and South Tarawa; and the detection and repair of leaks in the PUB’s pipe system from Buota to Betio.

KAPIII is funded via the World Bank GEF LDCF Trust Fund with co-financing from the governments of Australia and Japan, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery partnership, as well as in-kind from the Government of Kiribati.

KIRIWATSAN I

The Water and Sanitation project in the Outer Islands of the Republic of Kiribati Phase I (KIRIWATSAN I) is funded by EU, implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities with technical assistance from UNICEF.

It involves 70 communities in the 16 Gilbert Islands. The project aims to empower people by engaging them to achieve better access to safe drinking water, adequate and socially acceptable sanitation facilities, combined with an effective education/awareness raising campaign to improve their understanding of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues and to encourage behavioural changes, especially starting with children, as agents of change.

STSISP

The South Tarawa Sanitation Improvement Program (STSISP) aims to improve the health of communities on South Tarawa by rehabilitating and upgrading existing sanitation infrastructure. STSISP will improve access to sanitation services from 64 per cent of South Tarawa’s population in 2010 to 80 per cent by 2018. 

Rehabilitation of current infrastructure will limit contamination of groundwater reserves, which are currently polluted by pit latrines and poorly managed septic tanks.

 The Asian Development Bank is the lead agency on this program.

Part of the main road on South Tarawa.

Australia to give $15 million for road

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr with His Excellency Anote Tong during his visit to Kiribati. Photo: Rimon/OB

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr with His Excellency Anote Tong during his visit to Kiribati. Photo: Rimon/OB

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced Australia will provide $15 million to rehabilitate 40 kilometres of main road in South Tarawa, Kiribati, which has been undermined by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Speaking from Kiribati, Senator Carr said the works were essential if the nation was to survive the impact of climate change.

“Kiribati is at the front line of climate change,” Senator Carr said.

“Its highest point is now just three metres above sea level.

“Unless action is taken, Kiribati will be uninhabitable by 2030 as a result of coastal erosion, sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into drinking water.

“This project will provide more than 40 per cent of the population with better access to health clinics, schools and markets.

“Coastal roads will be rehabilitated to withstand rising sea levels and storm surges caused by climate change.

“We’ll also support the Kiribati Adaptation Program to replace 11 kilometres of damaged water mains and increase access to safe drinking water.

“I’m proud we can assist in rebuilding local roads and protecting basic Kiribati infrastructure from the devastating effects of human-induced climate change.”

Australia’s funding would be delivered over three years (2013-2015) in partnership with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Senator Carr will also join Kiribati President Anote Tong to present a statement to the UN Security Council on the need for climate change action to reduce the risk of future conflicts over scarce resources.

Local IKiribati children perform the Te Buke dance. They face an uncertain future as their islands capacity to support the population diminishes. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Human health in a warmer future

What effect will climate change have on health in the Pacific? ABC News Australia environment journalist Sarah Clarke is exploring this question in a five-part series for the ABC…

With climate change forecasts showing the Pacific will face hotter days and more extreme weather in the future, climate scientists and medical authorities say the implications could be serious for human health.

The (Australian) Federal Government’s Climate Commission is predicting a warmer Pacific will produce more heart attacks, strokes, exhaustion and more heat-related deaths.

Pacific countries are already copping the brunt of climate change, with water and food problems causing displacement.

The report also says there is the potential for a greater spread of disease transmitting mosquitoes as rainfall patterns change.

“It’s not only mosquitoes that will thrive in warmer and wetter conditions but it will also be influenced by their natural host populations before they spill over into humans,” he said.

Read the full story at abc.net.au/news

 

The emergency department of a hospital in Kiribati. Photo: Rimon Rimon/OB

Diarrhoea cases to rise

Climate change exacerbates public health problems in Tarawa and throughout Kiribati.

The incidence of ciguatera poisoning, diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition, and vectorborne diseases, such as dengue fever, rise as a result of increased temperatures and changes in rainfall.

Increased rainfall will likely result in a reduction in the overall rate of diarrhoea due to improved water quality and availability (though flooding may also lead to groundwater contamination). Decreased rainfall—particularly if it resulted in an increase in droughts—would increase the incidence of diarrhoea, as water shortages exacerbate sanitation problems.

However, the projected rise in temperature may increase the incidence of diarrhoea, primarily by increasing the likelihood of spoiled or contaminated food. Sea level rise could also increase the incidence of diarrhoea by decreasing the size of the freshwater lens, exacerbating overcrowding conditions, and disrupting sanitation and water supply.

Related:

Ciguatera poisoning ‘highest in the Pacific’
Risk of Dengue Fever to increase

This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Tarawa

This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa Copyright Finn Frandsen Politiken 2

This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Finn Frandsen/Politiken

According to a World Bank report, Kiribati’s capital of Tarawa—where nearly half the population lives—will be 25-54 per cent inundated in the south and 55-80 per cent in the north by mid-century unless there is significant adaptation. Factor in what this means for poisoning of groundwater, destruction of limited arable land and spread of disease, and you have an unlivable national capital.

Kiribati’s response to climate change is focused on adaptation. Its adaptation program, backed in part by AusAID, is carrying out a scientific risk assessment for Tarawa. Kautuna Kaitara, national director of the Kiribati Adaptation Program, says the country’s airstrip will be slowly “eaten away” and water supply spoiled unless there is swift action.

In the meantime, locals are forced to take things into their own hands. Albert Ientau has lived on the water’s edge in Abarao village since 1982. He has continually had to rebuild his sea wall, and more. Mr Ientau is no fool—his re-built house is on makeshift stilts—but the water is lapping at is door before high tide, but as you can see here in this photo series, he often has to roll large boulders into the water in what appears a forlorn exercise to prevent it from returning.

Many villagers have little or no understanding of climate change, but say they know they are witnessing a shift: increasingly intrusive seas, as well as stronger and less predictable winds and more intense heat. “The average i-Kiribati [Kiribati inhabitant] certainly thinks it’s getting hotter,” says Emil Shutz, a former government minister who now runs tours for the country’s few recreational visitors. “Ten years ago they could fish all day, but not any more – it is just too hot.”

There are parts of Kiribati where you can’t see the water, most notably in the southern Tarawa hub of Betio, but the threat of climate change is consistently there. The first thing you see when you land are the sandbags that try, and fail, to stop spring tides from flooding the only airstrip. If you are forced to go to hospital, you may get your feet wet. It is regularly inundated.

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