Kiribati in state of disaster

The nation of Kiribati is in a state of disaster as below-average rainfall and increased salinity in water sources have started to affect the population.

It has now been called a prolonged drought.

According to the government, the situation is critical considering the detection of the increased salinity of water sources.

There are fears that with fresh water sources limited, there will be an increase in other serious health concerns associated with the lack of water, including skin diseases.

The government has urged people to boil drinking water or drink bottled water.

The rising sea levels and bigger tides have been allowing seawater to mix with the limited underground water. This was the only other form of water supply apart from water collected from rain.

The first international response has come from Australia, providing 100 solar distillation units for the outer communities which will convert well water into safe drinking water.

Tarawa as seen from the air. The island is feeling the effects of a severe drought. Picture: mytagimoucia Twitter

Kiribati’s traditional dry season, or Aumaiaki, occurs between April and September, with the rainy season, or Aumeang, from October to March.

However, due to changes in climate, the country has been experiencing extreme drought-like conditions even during the traditional rainy season.

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Kiribati nationals living in Suva, Fiji are concerned that the incidents of droughts are getting more frequent.

Loane Teitoa, 25, a student at the University of the South Pacific said this was an effect of climate change.

A hospital in Tarawa preparing for increased health situations brought about by the drought. Picture: Office of the President of Kiribati

“I grew up in the islands. It was not always like this. We used to have enough rainfall to be able to sustain us,” he said.

“There is too little focus on what climate change is doing to small countries like ours.”

In the last three years, drought has been severely affecting different parts of Kiribati. In 2020, people living on Kiribati Island were in a similar situation, and last year, appeals were made for the people living on Banaba.

Former president of Kiribati Anote Tong has continued to highlight that climate change remains the biggest security threat to the Pacific.

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