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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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