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Life Expectancy in Kiribati

Kiribati is a small, low-lying island nation straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The nation is comprised of three archipelagoes, scattered in an area roughly the size of India. Often overlooked globally, the Kiribati people have faced a number of challenges especially since gaining independence in 1979. This struggle is illuminated by these nine facts about life expectancy in Kiribati.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Kiribati

  1. Kiribati ranks 174th in the world in terms of life expectancy, with the average life lasting only 66.9 years. The country ranks last in life expectancy out of the 20 nations located in the Oceania region of the Pacific.
  2. The lives of Kiribati women last approximately 5.2 years longer than their male counterparts, with female life expectancy standing at 69.5 years and the male life expectancy at 64.3 years.
  3. The entire nation’s population is the same as the population of about 4 percent of the borough of Brooklyn, with roughly 110,000 citizens. Even with such a small population, Kiribati faces serious issues relating to overcrowding. The Western Gilbert Islands (one of the three archipelagoes comprising Kiribati) boasts some of the highest population densities on earth, rivaling cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong. This overcrowding causes great amounts of pollution, worsening the quality and length of life for the Kiribati people.
  4. Due to underdeveloped sanitation and water filtration systems, only about 66 percent of those living in Kiribati have access to clean water. Waterborne diseases are at record levels throughout the country. Poor sanitation has led to an increase in cases of diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, rotavirus and fungal infections.
  5. Around 61.5 percent of Kiribati citizens smoke tobacco products on a regular basis. There are more smokers per capita in Kiribati than in any other country in the South Pacific. Due to this and other lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, there has been a drastic spike in lower limb amputations on the islands, doubling from 2011 to 2014.
  6. Suicide is on the rise. The number of self-harm related deaths increased by 14.4 percent from 2007 to 2017.  Climate change is suspected to play a large role in the growth of this troublesome statistic. With sea levels rising, the people of Kiribati deal with the daily fear that, even if only a small storm were to hit the island, the entire nation could be submerged into the Pacific. Such a foreboding possibility weighs heavily on the Kiribati people.
  7. Sexual violence is at a high in Kiribati, especially in regards to sexual violence between spouses. According to a 2010 study, approximately 68 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse, or a combination of the two, from an intimate partner. Sexual violence towards children and adolescents is also expected to be prevalent, however, statistics are lacking in regards to children under 15.
  8. Kiribati is a young country, with a median age of 25. In most countries with relatively young median ages, women have a large number of children. This is not the case in Kiribati, where the average woman has 2.34 children. This can be viewed as a positive for the nation’s future, for when women have fewer children, the life expectancy typically experiences an increase.
  9. The Health Ministry Strategic Plan (HMSP) plans to raise both the quality and quantity of health care facilities in the country. The Ministry’s goal is to maintain a minimum of 40 trained health care professionals for every 10,000 people and to have at least 80 percent of medicines and commodities that have been deemed essential, available at all times.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

top ten facts about living conditions in kiribati
The country of Kiribati, located in the equatorial Pacific, is made up of 33 atolls or ring-shaped islands. The islands are separated into three groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands. Of the islands, 21 are inhabited, but most of the population is settled in the Gilbert Islands where the capital, Tarawa, is located. The Outer Islands consist of six islands on the outskirts of Tarawa and the Phoenix Islands. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Kiribati including causes and improvements.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Kiribati

  1. According to an assessment in 2014, it is estimated that 22 percent of people live below the poverty line. As people have begun to live a more urban lifestyle, the cost of living has increased, but there are few employment opportunities. The GDP per capita in 2018 was only $1732.30, equivalent to 14 percent of the world’s average.
  2. On average, only four out of 10 adults are employed in Kiribati. Formal employment is rare outside of the public service sector, with 75 percent of the labor force employed for services. Instead many adults often work in unpaid subsistence work, like subsistence agriculture. Some men become seamen, however, only around 4,000 jobs are available to people on the island making it an unsustainable career option.
  3. A shocking 70 percent of women have reported domestic violence by their partner and this gendered violence is considered normalized behavior in Kiribati. Female-led households are uncommon except in the poorest sectors of the country. Women are unable to leave their abusive partners due to limited economic opportunities for them. The gap is widest in middle-income homes with only 47 percent of women employed in the labor force despite 77 percent of men being employed.
  4. Education is free and compulsory for students aged 6 to 14, however, many children do not attend for the entirety. Between 2010 and 2013, the rate of students reaching Class 5 of primary school declined from 90.7 percent to 72.6 percent. Although these schools are free, families must cover costs for travel, uniforms and textbooks. So only one-third of all children finish secondary school and in general, the workforce of Kiribati is low skilled.
  5. Many people who live on the Outer Islands live a traditional lifestyle and rely on agriculture, fishing, cutting copra and selling crafts for financial compensation. However, the growing need for cash and the degradation of land makes these traditional means significantly less profitable. As a result, the average income for people on the island is $5 a day or the cost of a single pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the United States.
  6. Due to poor eating habits and high poverty levels, Kiribati has a mortality rate of 54.6 out of 1,000 live births for children under 5 years old. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition and the prevalence of communicable diseases, like tuberculosis, are the main causes of youth mortality. According to UNICEF, 34 percent of children suffer from stunting, a consequence of poor nutrition. Additionally, in a study from 2000-13, Kiribati had the highest tuberculosis case notification rate of all Pacific islands at 398 cases per 100,000.
  7. With an average height of six feet above sea level, high tides flood the islands of Kiribati for days on end. Especially during La Niña, Kiribati is susceptible to days of endless flooding that contaminates wells and drinking water. Flooding, followed by periods of drought, causes extreme water shortages affecting daily life and agriculture. In January 2019, there were reports of storm surges, strong winds and heavy rain on the main island of Tarawa. Floodwaters were slow to recede in some villages as a result of improper drainage throughout the country.
  8. In 2013, the Australian and Kiribati governments and the World Bank Group developed an economic plan to strengthen public financial management and the monitoring of public debt. Since then, the government was able to develop a financial strategy to improve the country’s 43 million dollar debt. Between 2015-17, the economy grew at an average annual pace of five and one-quarter percent, an improvement from 2000-14 when the economy only grew at an average annual pace of one and a half percent.
  9. Between 2017 and 2018, the Australian government provided an estimated 27.7 million dollars in official development assistance to Kiribati. Approximately 3.6 million dollars funded the government of Kiribati’s National Tuberculosis Program. The Australian government also helped 412 Kiribati workers gain temporary employment under its labor mobility programs.
  10. Starting in 2011, the government of Kiribati implemented a nine-year education improvement program to support the Ministry of Education, improve the quality of basic education and support reforms in the classroom. By 2014, 591 teachers had been assessed and/or trained under the program, around 1,500 primary school students were learning in rehabilitated classrooms and 32,238 textbooks and learning materials were printed and distributed.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Kiribati intend to show a holistic representation of the impoverished conditions people endure daily. Lack of education, economic instability and few job opportunities make Kiribati a severely underdeveloped country.

Supporting legislation in the United States, like the Keep Girls in School Act, can help improve the lives of females in Kiribati and other underdeveloped countries by providing females with an education.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in KiribatiKiribati is a small island country in the central Pacific. The people of Kiribati have a positive outlook on life, despite the fact that many factors such as a lack of sanitation, overcrowding, high unemployment and environmental threats have led to 22 percent of the population living without basic needs.

The Ministry of Health in Kiribati provides free hospital services and public health and nursing services on the island and tries to focus on disease prevention and education. Yet, the persistence of urban poverty, climate change and poor water quality have led to a nearly constant influx of disease on the island.

Diarrheal Disease
Diarrheal outbreaks are common diseases in Kiribati for a few reasons. One of the most prevalent sources of diarrhea is dirty water. One in 20 infants dies before their first birthday in Kiribati from drinking unclean water. Some other causes of diarrheal disease are poor food handling and public defecation due to overcrowding.

Malnutrition
There are three different types of malnutrition: wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age). The most common type of malnutrition in Kiribati is stunting. Malnutrition not only reduces quality of life but also contributes greatly to infant mortality, weak immune systems and mortality in general.

Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus
Two other common diseases in Kiribati are dengue fever and chikungunya, both of which are viruses transmitted through the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. In 2015, it was reported that more than 12,000 people have been infected with mosquito-borne illnesses.

Ciguatera Poisoning
Ciguatera poisoning comes from consuming reef fish that have been contaminated by ciguatoxins, or marine biotoxins that cause food intoxication. The toxins can cause a wide range of neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms. According to research, the toxins mainly develop in shallow waters that contain seaweed, sediments and dead coral. Thus, it is possible that low sea levels and surface water temperatures are contributing to the poisoning.

Lifestyle Disease
Some of the most common diseases in Kiribati are those that stem from certain lifestyle habits or behaviors. Diseases of this kind include HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. The prevalence of HIV and STIs are due to a lack of sexual education. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are most often associated with physical inactivity and poor eating habits. Tobacco use also contributes to respiratory disease and cancers.

Kiribati is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a national development plan for the 2016-2019 period that includes operational plans for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Immediate goals include reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases, improving maternal and child health, preventing the spread of communicable diseases and strengthening health service delivery.

Awareness and prevention of communicable disease will be key to implementing this plan. With the intervention of WHO, Kiribati has made strides in providing cost-effective, quality health services and preventing disease.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Kiribati Refugees
Climate change will drive migration on a massive scale in the coming years. Estimates of people fleeing natural disasters range from 25 million to 1 billion. The small island nation of Kiribati in the Pacific will be extinct by 2100. The government is trying to help the Kiribati refugees migrate with dignity, but their legal status is still in limbo.

    1. Most of the land of the Kiribati islands is less than two meters above sea level. It is therefore very vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. Its residents may have to be the first climate change refugees.
    2. In 1999, two islands disappeared underwater. The nation is made up of 33 small islands, whose land is being swallowed by the ocean at a rate of almost 4 millimeters a year. According to the U.N., the entire nation will be submerged by 2100.
    3. Even before this drastic event occurs, changes in weather patterns are likely to produce Kiribati refugees. Droughts are becoming more severe, whilst rainfall is increasing, causing flooding. The oceans are acidifying, disturbing the delicate balance of coral reefs, whose marine ecosystems are the source of many people’s livelihoods.
    4. Freshwater supply is also problematic, as saltwater from high ocean tides is polluting wells and prolonged droughts are pushing water supplies to their limits. Many residents of South Tarawa, the island housing half of the country’s 100,000 people, are now completely reliant on rainwater.

  1. In 2003, the Kiribati government cooperated with the World Bank in the $17.7million Kiribati Adaptation Program. They built coastal sea walls, planted mangroves on the shores, developed water-management plans and invested in rainwater harvesting infrastructure, to postpone the effects of the rising ocean. The project has managed to protect one of 710 miles of Kiribati’s coastline.
  2. The former president, Anote Tong, started the “Migration with Dignity” program to ensure the Kiribati refugees will move to other states with dignity. The government has increased the level of qualifications available to citizens to those of Australia and New Zealand so that they are employable.
  3. The former president also bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji, an island nation more than 1,000 miles away. This will act as a refuge for any Kiribati residents who will need to relocate.
  4. A Kiribati citizen applied for asylum in New Zealand in 2011. Four years later he was rejected and deported back to his sinking homeland.
  5. The 1951 Refugee Convention defines refugees as those “fleeing persecution at home.” As such, the Kiribati refugees are not protected by international law. “The truth is no one agency in the system because no one could have imagined this situation 60 years ago,” said José Riera, a senior advisor to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
  6. The Paris Agreement signed this past April does little to help climate change refugees. It didn’t resolve the issue of their legal status or mandate their protection.

It is hopeful that with the help of the government and international aid, each refugee, resident and the overall island will be preserved.

Eliza Gkritsi

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kiribati
There is no translation for the word ‘poverty’ in Kiribati, a small island in the Central Pacific. This is because many do not consider themselves or those around them poor. In Kiribati, there is a prevalent belief that you are not poor unless you cannot maintain a subsistence living by going out and fishing or foraging for basic needs from the land. To most of those who call the island home, poverty means having nothing at all.

Despite this positive outlook, many people throughout the country are struggling to obtain basic needs on a day-to-day basis. An estimated 22 percent of the entire Kiribati population was living beneath the “basic needs” poverty line in 2006, according to the Australian High Commission in Kiribati. The households below this line face the struggles that poverty in Kiribati entails on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. Many inhabitants live in unregulated housing without access to clean water, sanitation or other basic hygiene utilities.

The rise in poverty in Kiribati has to do with a few interlinked factors. The first is an increase in cash as a necessity, as opposed to living off of the land. Subsistence farming, once the norm, is threatened by environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources. Thus, this need for cash has increased as the population becomes more urbanized and the expense of living goes up. Means of earning cash are limited, however. These options are particularly limited for women and people with disabilities, and formal employment is sparse. The Australian High Commission in Kiribati reports that only 10 percent of the total population held jobs in 2010.

Low rates of employment are strongly linked to lack of education. There is a cyclical low education rate in Kiribati, with undereducated parents unable to pay their children’s tuition fees. For those who do attend school, schools are understaffed and poorly organized for optimal learning. Without proper education — or, in many cases, any education — it is difficult for children to move out of poverty. Employment opportunities are thus largely limited to low-paying jobs.

Urban poverty, lack of sanitation and overcrowding have given health problems to many in Kiribati. Health and poverty are closely linked in Kiribati, even though healthcare is free. Though there is no out-of-pocket charge for health care, sickness incurs income or education opportunity losses. This can be hugely damaging to livelihoods.

Consequently, the people in Kiribati end up borrowing money from “loan sharks,” or unofficial loan providers. These providers often charge high-interest rates that lead to the Kiribati people remaining in or diving further into debt.

Although they may not have a word for poverty, this does not mean those in Kiribati do not require aid. Currently, the country is involved in the Australia-Kiribati Partnership for Development, which attempts to relieve some of the poverty in Kiribati. This foreign aid helps improve basic education, bolster workforce development and improve infrastructure. Further, non-government organizations (NGOs) and donors provide much of the relief for poverty in Kiribati. International NGOs stationed in the country include Live and Learn, Caritas and Red Cross and Rotary, while local NGOs include Te Tao Matoa, Kiribati Family Health Association and the School for Children with Special Needs.

One way to help those in Kiribati is by supporting bills like the Education for All Act, a low-cost bipartisan bill that would help ensure worldwide educational expansion for children in low-income countries. Improving education is the first step in improving living conditions in Kiribati, as it would give children opportunities for better futures.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

climate_change_refugees
A man from Kiribati, a tiny Pacific island, has asked New Zealand to officially recognize him as a climate change refugee. New Zealand refused what was the world’s first appeal for climate change refugee status, and Ioane Teitiota now faces deportation. Teitiota had argued that rising sea levels had damaged his crops and contaminated the water supply, and that he feared a worsening situation in the future. Kiribati is expected to be three-fourths underwater in just 30 years. Its government has had to buy land from Fiji.

Climate change refugees might soon become a common place occurrence. Sea levels are predicted to rise by at least a couple of feet in the next few decades. Cities, or even countries, that lie below sea level are at high risk of being submerged. Bangladesh, for instance, would have already lost 17 percent of its land by 2050. An estimated 20 million people from this highly over-populated country are expected to become refugees. Rising sea levels could also sink all 1,200 of Maldives’ islands. Its government is attempting to work out an evacuation plan with nearby countries. Other coastal cities such as Manhattan, London, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Mumbai are at risk. Entire cultures and identities could be wiped away forever.

Droughts and desertification are increasingly destroying arable land, forcing many people to migrate further inland to already crowded cities. The Gobi Desert, for instance, expands 3,600 km square each year. Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are losing 1,000 km sq each annually. Poorer countries that depend on agriculture for both economic growth and basic subsistence are heavily impacted by the increasingly extreme weather patterns. Food security will become a serious issue for many countries when it was not before.

Although the need for one is clear, a universally accepted definition of climate refuge is lacking. The Global Governance House defines climate refugees as environmental migrants forced to move “due to sudden or gradual alterations in the natural environment related to at least one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity.” Environmental migrants are defined as “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad” by the International Organization for Migration.

Last year, 36 million people were displaced by natural disasters. Of this number, an astounding 20 million were climate change refugees. António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, predicts that the number will increase rapidly, and not just because of changes in weather in climate. The shortage of food and clean water will lead to “resource wars,” as they are called in popular culture. Increased competition for water, food and grazing lands will lead to conflict. A recent study predicts that the probability of civil war will increase in Africa by more than 50 percent by 2030 as compared to 1990.

Radhika Singh

Sources: UNHCR, Telegraph, International organization for Migration, Global Governance House, National Geographic
Photo: ABC

Climate-Change-Global-Warming-Rising-Sea-Levels
Developing countries with low national incomes are being hit the hardest by climate change. Rising sea-levels, storms and cyclones and high temperatures as a result of global warming are some of the consequences produced by climate change.

Climate change is defined as a shift in global weather patterns, largely due to man-made influences on the environment. According to a U.N. report, the average land and sea temperatures are expected to rise an additional four degrees Celsius; meaning, future temperatures can become warm enough to ruin agricultural sectors and impact ways of living. When land as well as sea temperatures warm, a spike in rainfall occurs, causing heavier storms with stronger monsoons and cyclones. Additionally, warming oceans result in melting glaciers and polar ice caps which cause rising sea-levels and coastal flooding.

Global Warming

In the past 50 years global temperatures have risen faster than any other time in history. Severe heat waves and droughts, due to warming, impact not only water and food sources but individual health as well. If exposed to heat waves for an extended amount of time, illness and death become likely. Diseases transmitted through food and water also increase since bacteria rapidly multiply when exposed to heat for a long period of time.

Additionally, poor crop yield due to droughts can cause increased hunger and famine. Droughts also cause a scarcity in water supplies that also contribute to poor health and hunger.

Stronger Storms

Storms such as cyclones and monsoons are being amplified as a result of climate change.

Developing nations such as the islands of Vanuatu are at an increased risk of such storms. Vanuatu has recently experienced its strongest cyclone yet. The storm caused coastal flooding due to rising sea-levels and has affected food supplies and destroyed around 90 percent of buildings in its country’s capital of Port Vila, according to The Guardian. The storm has affected business and employment as well, leaving many without jobs or homes.

Rising Sea-Levels

According to National Geographic, since the 1990s, sea levels have been rising 0.14 inches per year. As sea levels rise each year, islands of developing nations are at risk of losing land to the sea.

For example, the island of Kiribati faces being the first country to become a refugee of climate change. Rising sea levels not only invade the land of Kiribati, but also drive its people into deeper poverty. The salt water that seeps into the land contaminates fresh water sources and kills crops that are needed for survival.

Countries like Kiribati along with other developing nations are at a higher risk because of unavailable funds to combat the consequences of climate change. Poor countries cannot afford to counter the effects the climate has on its environment, causing developing nations to be more susceptible. Global warming and droughts, storms such as cyclones and monsoons along with rising sea-levels require a degree of funding in order to combat its effects. Without it, developing nations will continue to be hit the hardest as climate change progresses.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, Natural Resources Defense Council, The World Bank
Photo: National Geographic

hunger_in_kiribati
Kiribati has made great strides in combating hunger; however, the growing issue of climate change is drastically affecting food sources and slowing the achievement of hunger reduction goals.

In 2014, Kiribati was one of 13 countries recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization for their progress in eradicating hunger. Through developing quality food systems, bolstering rural development and income, increasing production, improving food access and reinforcing social protection, the hunger target of halving the number of hungry people was achieved.

Additionally, social protection programs, along with agricultural intervention and development, have provided hunger relief to villages throughout Kiribati.

According to World Bank, Kiribati imports most of its food; however, high food prices have drastically affected hunger and poverty. In 2011, Kiribati received an emergency grant of 2 million dollars to aid with the existing food crisis. In recent years, similar funding projects have helped combat hunger in Kiribati; nonetheless, the issue of hunger as a result of climate change is fluctuating. Without financial support, the cost of food will continue to increase, leaving thousands of people at risk of food insecurity.

However, Kiribati is expected to face a much larger problem than hunger or poverty—climate change. With a total population of 102,400, Kiribati is still viewed as one of the least developed countries in the world. Eroding shorelines and flooding is causing extensive damage to the everyday lives of the people of Kiribati. Roads, utilities, villages and households as well as food and water supplies are being impacted. There has been and continues to be damaged crops and contaminated fresh water due to excessive salt-water. A consequence of the climate change is that it leads to serious food and water deficits, and thus increasing hunger in Kiribati.

Additionally, the concentration of resources has shifted from developing economic stability in Kiribati to building sea-walls in an attempt to fight the consequences of climate change.

For example, according to the government of Kiribati, an estimated two billion dollars is needed to protect the inhabited islands of Kiribati from the effects of climate change.

Unfortunately, a looming natural adversity threatens food supplies for people living in Kiribati. Contaminated crops, water and resources influence hunger and poverty in Kiribati.

Despite consequences of climate change on hunger and poverty in Kiribati, there is still good news: extensive aid programs are focusing on preserving water and food supplies as well as combating the threat of climate change.

Adaptation programs and rehabilitation projects, including the Rain Water Harvesting Contract—producing reserve fresh water supplies—and global aid of 23 million dollars provided by the European Union are some of the aid being implemented. These government plans and development aids are expected to alleviate hunger and poverty. Furthermore, through the Kiribati Development plan, arrangements are being made to continue enhancing economic growth, securing food and reducing poverty.

Although hunger in Kiribati seems to be fluctuating due to climate change, aid and assistance is being provided from around the world to combat climate change, hunger and poverty in Kiribati.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization, The Hungry Tide, The World Bank
Photo: Live Mint

International Aid for Small Island States - The Borgen Project
The International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC estimates a one meter sea level rise if global temperatures increase by four degrees Celsius. This could happen by the year 2100 and would render the small island nations of Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu uninhabitable.

The dire situation of low-lying island states has prompted the World Bank Group to announce a Small Island States Resilience Initiative. The Initiative was prompted by the outspoken leaders of the island states who have asked the world for assistance.

“As some of the most threatened people and places on the planet, small island nations are stepping up their efforts to deal with climate change. This Initiative is designed to address the specific needs of small islands and make it easier, faster and simpler to access funding to deal with resilience and climate change,” explains Rachel Kyte, WBG vice president and Special Envoy for Climate Change.

The WBG will also increase its aid to the island states to $190 million from $145 million per year.

Small island developing states have realized that they do not have it within their capacity to prepare themselves for the impending rise in sea level. The increased aid from the World Bank will help preserve the diverse culture, ecosystems and indigenous knowledge that the SIDS hold.

The World Bank Group is not the only organization that recognizes the importance and need of the Small island developing states: many various organizations have donated to projects focused on climate and disaster resilience. However, instead of helping, this has served to overburden the government. Samoa has to manage 14 different projects, while the Solomon Islands is struggling under the load of 22.

“Our hope is that this Initiative will help pool donor resources available now, reduce transaction costs, allow for economies of scale across countries, and above all, lay the ground work for direct country access to global climate fund,” said Kyte.

— Julianne O’Connor

Sources: World Bank, The Guardian
Photo: WordPress

kiribati
One of the many effects of climate change concerns the rising of the world’s oceans. As both climate scientists and one country’s president realize, Kiribati, a low-lying nation in the Pacific Ocean, will likely become non-existent within the upcoming decades.

Kiribati is home to some 100,000 people. Located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, it consists of 33 small islands and atolls scattered over an area the size of India.

On average, the nation loses 3.7 millimeters of land a year due to rising water. President Anote Tong said the country could be completely uninhabitable within less than 60 years.

In fact, the county has already purchased nearly 6,000 acres of land in Fiji to address economic and food security issues. The government said in a May press release that the land is “an investment by the government to explore options of commercial, industrial and agricultural undertakings.”

Since 1880, global sea levels have risen nearly 10 inches. By the end of the century, scientists believe the seas could rise nearly three feet.

One of the islands in the country is Tarawa, known by most of the world as a World War II battle site among the Japanese and Americans. Because so much of the population lives on top of the island’s main water lens, where fresh drinking water lies, it is difficult for the island’s inhabitants to find a place to defecate. Health officials estimate that nearly 60 percent of Tarawa residents defecate outdoors.

Since the nation may soon be completely submerged, the government has found it difficult to find any substantial investors. In fact, the U.S. does not have an ambassador for the country. Instead, the U.S. ambassador of Fiji also serves Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Moreover, for the Kiribati residents who may choose to evacuate the country in the coming years, the situation may become difficult.

In the past, New Zealand permitted 75 Kiribati citizens into the country each year so long as they met the necessary visa requirements. However, the country recently ruled against a Kiribati man who requested to become a refugee in the country on the grounds of climate change.

Yet, much of the country is increasingly skeptic of climate change due to religious purposes. In a census several years ago accounting for over 90,000 Kiribati citizens, only 23 stated they did not follow a religious practice.

In an interview conducted with Businessweek, Tong said the Western world has not focused enough attention on effects of rising oceans and climate change.

“Ecoterrorism is equal to terrorism,” he said. “This is a kind of terrorism that is more dangerous in one way, because it is treated as legitimate and acceptable. Maybe 10 years ago, they didn’t know what they were doing. But it’s not an excuse any longer.”

– Ethan Safran

Sources: Net Nebraska, Business Week, NPR, NY Times, Kiribati Climate Change
Photo: Net Nebraska