Humanitarian Aid to Kiribati

Although Kiribati’s land mass covers 811 square kilometers, its 33 coral atolls are spread over an area the size of the United States and the vast majority rise no higher than three meters above sea level. Kiribati’s small land mass and high fertility rate mean its main centers are severely overcrowded.

Unemployment rates remain high in the island nation and only 15 percent of children attend secondary school. Only two-thirds of the population has access to an improved drinking water source, and less than 40 percent have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Tuberculosis, dengue fever, leprosy and typhoid are major health concerns for Kiribati.

The United Nations lists Kiribati as an “endangered country” because of the dangers it faces from rising sea levels, contaminated fresh water supplies and poor waste management. There is a need for humanitarian aid to Kiribati because of significant development challenges, such as:

  • Limited revenue
  • High cost of delivering basic services, such as education and healthcare, to remote islands
  • Few employment opportunities
  • Climate change

Kiribati’s economy relies on overseas aid, income from fishing licenses and remittances from merchant seamen. Most of Kiribati’s inhabitants are employed in fishing and subsistence farming, but poor soil fertility limits production. Fortunately, new programs are focusing on humanitarian aid to Kiribati.

Caritas Australia implemented The Disaster Response and Preparedness program, funded by AusAID,  in four Pacific Island countries. The three-year initiative expands Kiribati’s capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters. Caritas Australia partnered with the Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru to train local young people to work with communities and raise awareness about the impacts of climate change.

Saltwater contaminates drinking wells and high tides destroy land crops, threatening the food security of communities dependent on subsistence agriculture in Kiribati. The Disaster Response and Preparedness program pairs young people with elders to identify strategies to mitigate these effects.

This initiative has given young people the opportunity to become strong advocates for their small island at international climate change forums around the world. Humanitarian aid to Kiribati has been handed off to the next generation.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Australia's Foreign Aid Program
Australia’s foreign aid program has seen many changes since it first became a single government agency in the 1970s. Besides the name, changes have taken place within the program’s administration, its focus, the countries that receive aid and the type of aid provided.

Australia provided aid to other countries well before there was an official government program. In the 1950s, Australia granted aid to Papua New Guinea in the form of grants and to South and Southeast Asia by way of educational scholarships and assistance with employment.

In 1974, under Prime Minister Whitlam, Australia established the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) as a single government entity that would administer the country’s aid. Since that time, the name of the program has changed several times, first to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB), then to the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), then to the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and finally to its current name, Australian Aid.

In 2010, Australia established AusAID as an executive agency within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In Australia, an executive agency is separate from its department for staffing, accountability and reporting purposes. However, the 2013 change to the country’s current program, Australian Aid, integrated the executive agency into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so that it was no longer a stand-alone agency.

In a 2014 press release, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, introduced Australian Aid: “The Australian Government’s new approach to overseas development assistance will focus on ways to drive economic growth in developing nations and create pathways out of poverty. Strict performance benchmarks will ensure aid spending is accountable to taxpayers and achieve results.”

The program incorporated a new development policy that focused on promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability. A new performance framework, Making Performance Count, enhanced the accountability and effectiveness of Australian aid by establishing performance benchmarks and impact assessments in targeted aid areas.

Australia’s foreign aid program will also have a new focus on the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions. In 2014, Minister Bishop gave a speech in which she further explained the reason for the change in focus. “In the past, [our aid program] has been spread far too thinly across the globe…We must direct our aid to where we can make the biggest difference and align it with our national interest.”

According to preliminary data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) was $3.22 billion in 2015, which was 0.27 percent of their gross national income (GNI). The United Nations adopted a resolution in 1970 stating that ODA spending in developed countries should be at least 0.7 percent of GNI. Preliminary data from the OECD shows that only Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Kingdom met that target in 2015.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr