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International help needed for Kiribati water crisis

Wednesday 22 March 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Kiribati, Regional


International help needed for Kiribati water crisis
David Kakiakia on a household visit to do water testing in Kiribati. Photo: Supplied/ChildFund

On World Water Day, March 22, David Kakiakia explained his hope for Kiribati, which is suffering from severe drought.

Kiribati has the highest infant mortality rates in the Pacific linked directly to unsafe drinking water, according to Childfund.

The country has very low ground water which is contaminated by salt and rubbish. Climate change is making it worse with rising sea water, periods of drought and sporadic rains.

Recently a member of the Kiribati parliament, Teima Onorio, said the island of Arorae] has had almost no rain for two years.

And the island of Banaba has been through water crises for each of the past three years.

Read more: Kiribati water crisis

Kakiakia, who is the ChildFund Kiribati programmes director and a Kiribati resident from the northern-most island Mankin, knows the challenges people face first-hand.

"When I was a kid, I had to walk to get water. It took me about 20 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes walking from where I lived to that place," he said.

He's been working with the ChildFund team and locals installing solar water distillation systems, solar water purifiers and doing community outreach in an effort to save lives.

He said he dreams of expanding support to outer islands because at the moment his team is only able to support residents on Kiribati's main island, due to insufficient funds.

Kakiakia said while his team receives funding from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, donations from the general public are greatly needed.