Kiribati is a small island country located between Hawaii and Australia. Thirty-three islands make up Kiribati, but people only inhabit 20 today. After receiving its independence in 1979, Kiribati began to focus on becoming a self-sufficient nation. However, with Kiribati’s growing population, heavy dependence on imports and reliance on income from overseas, the issue of hunger continues to grow. Here are the top nine facts about hunger in Kiribati.
Top 9 Facts About Hunger in Kiribati
- After an economic crisis in 2006 and according to Kiribati’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, nearly 22 percent of Kiribati’s population was living in poverty. Though most of Kiribati’s people may not be going hungry, the lack of sufficient nutrition can affect a child’s development and growth, and the children could face a variety of health issues in the future. Of the 22 percent, 5 percent were living in extreme poverty. Simultaneously, the report considered 44 percent of Kiribati’s population vulnerable.
- Children are not the only ones at risk of hunger, as adults also face this issue. Without sufficient nutrition, adults risk underperforming while carrying out laborious tasks. With many fisheries throughout Kiribati and a lack of variety in food, hunger threatens to disrupt Kiribati’s top export market.
- According to Dr. Aurelie Delisle, an environmental social scientist, the villages “are restricted to fish, rice and taro.” However, on some islands, the diet is changing. In place of the traditional fish, leafy greens and root diet, islanders are turning to imported packaged foods. According to William Verity, these areas now face “some of the world’s worst rates of obesity and diabetes.”
- In 2012, the U.N. defined Kiribati as a Least Developed Country (LDC). Though Kiribati has met two of the three thresholds of criteria to graduate from LDC, the U.N. does not expect Kiribati to officially graduate until December 2021. One of the goals the Committee for Development Policy (CPD) has for LDC is to ensure food security.
- Nearly 50 percent of Kiribati’s population live on the outer islands of the Gilbert Group. According to the World Bank, the rising prices of importing food greatly affect Kiribati’s Outer Islands. Many families “spend 50 percent of their budget on food” since the country imports most of its food. In 2011 to 2012, the World Bank and Kiribati’s government signed The Food Crisis Response Grant. The $2 million grant helped the residents improve the affordability and availability of food throughout the islands.
- In October 2017, Kiribati entered the third phase of the Kiribati Adaptation Program implemented by the World Bank. Kiribati put $0.87 million towards improving the resilience of the Islanders to protect against the impact of climate change on freshwater and buildings. One of the program’s primary goals was to provide islanders with safe drinking water.
- Families that lack access to imported goods rely heavily on agriculture. The most common crops are copra, coconuts, taro, breadfruit, banana, papaya and mango. Nearly 55 percent of Kiribati’s population depend on copra. Due to the change in climate, the heavy rainfall makes it difficult for copra and coconuts to grow.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is focusing its efforts on livestock and agriculture projects to enhance Kiribati’s food security. Due to rising sea levels, Kiribati has limited agriculture. Erosion and flooding threaten farmers livelihoods by destroying crops, roads and even villages. Despite this, the yields of coconuts and bananas are slowly improving with the agricultural techniques provided by the Timber and Forestry Training College of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology. Nearly 600 farmers have received training in seed and nut selection, and nursery establishment and management.
- In September of 2014 to 2019, The Outer Island Food and Water Project (OIFWP) emerged. Focusing on the four outer islands of Abebama, Beru, North Tabiteuea and Nonouti, the OIFWP helps increase food availability through gardening and livestock, reduce the Islander’s dependence on imported foods, increase income for poor families and reduce sickness due to unclean water. Around 25 percent of Kiribati participated in the project. The project installed a total of 278 water systems throughout the islands. In 2018, the project had completed 60 percent of its goal by implementing new diets.
The fear of flooding is always on the Kiribati people’s minds. In an early phase of the Kiribati Adaption Project, participants installed systems that collect rainwater. According to the government water technician on the island of North Tarawa, there are around 50 water pumps. Ruteta, an islander who feared that children were becoming ill from the water, is “grateful because life is much simpler having rainwater.” This project ensures that Islanders have 24-hour access to fresh water.
These top nine facts about hunger in Kiribati demonstrate that hunger greatly impacts the Kiribati people’s wellbeing. Though Kiribati is a small developing country, hunger still remains. Through humanitarian efforts and grants, such as The Food Crisis Response Grant, Kiribati’s battle with hunger is one step closer to victory.
– Emily Beaver