POWELL, Ohio — The United States, through the USAID, is giving $500,000 in humanitarian assistance in Kiribati. Kiribati is located in the central Pacific Ocean. It declared a state of disaster after below-average rainfall led to a severe drought. This humanitarian assistance in Kiribati went to UNICEF, which will help the Kiribati government monitor groundwater.
Made up of 32 atolls and islands, the island nation of Kiribati is home to around 120,000 people. The country is one of the least developed countries in the region. In 2020, the poverty rate in Kiribati was 21.9%. Additionally, Kiribati has some of the lowest access to clean water and sanitation in the Pacific region.
The islands are at risk of natural disasters, as the country experiences high seismic activity and earthquakes. With few natural resources, coupled with extreme poverty, the nation of Kiribati relies heavily on developmental assistance.
Since November of 2016, Kiribati has been experiencing below-average rainfall. Typically, the average rainfall is 2,100 millimeters per year, around 82 inches. But so far in 2022, some areas of the nation have only received around 2.3 inches of rainfall. As a result, there is an extreme drought in the country affecting the 120,000 inhabitants of the islands.
Specifically, according to USAID, sought has affected around 94,000 residents of the Gilbert Islands as this area depends heavily on rainwater for farming. As a result of low water levels, the government of Kiribati is advising residents to boil the water or use bottled water.
USAID Humanitarian Assistance
By declaring a state of disaster, the government of Kiribati is able to coordinate with an international response and arrange long-term assistance. Immediately on the ground in Kiribati, UNICEF is helping organize a response to monitoring the groundwater supply, as well as water conservation and treatment, USAID reported.
When a nation requests humanitarian assistance after declaring a disaster, the U.S. decides what initial response is appropriate. The Borgen Project spoke with Annette Aulton at USAID. According to Aulton, initial funding is around $100,000 to meet urgent needs. “USAID allocated an additional $400,000 to provide water, sanitation and hygiene support based on assessed needs,” said Aulton.
In the near future,USAID will provide water containers for up to 10,000 people and two or three water bladders that hold 10,000 liters each, Aulton explained. USAID will continue to monitor the situation, working closely with partners in the region, to determine if Kiribati needs additional assistance.
The country of Kiribati is getting assistance from other nations in the Pacific. The first international response Kiribati received was from Australia, which provided 100 solar distillation units for outer communities to convert well water into water that is safe to drink. Additionally, New Zealand has committed to providing long-term help such as repairing critical water infrastructure.
The United States, through USAID, has provided assistance in the Pacific region for many years. According to Aulton, “the USAID has supported recovery, risk reduction and resilience initiatives” in Kiribati in other Pacific nations to support disaster preparedness and response. With initial humanitarian assistance in Kiribati through UNICEF, USAID will continue to monitor the drought to determine additional needs.
– Abigail Turner