Kiribati is one of the least developed countries in the Pacific with few natural resources, limited governance, institutional capacity, and infrastructure. Humanitarian crises are prevalent here, and the occurrence of extreme weather events is likely to increase due to the climate crisis as the sea levels rise and regularly flood coastal homes.
Safeguarding Communities During Disasters
Preparedness is key for the local communities. IPPF’s Member Association, the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) has created a Humanitarian Youth Club. They meet regularly to plan rapid responses for their communities during a disaster.
This initiative is designed to ensure access to essential sexual and reproductive healthcare during crises for women, girls, and vulnerable groups. Theta, 25, is a member of one of the Humanitarian Youth Clubs. She talks about her experiences and hopes for Kiribati.
Facing Challenges on Remote Pacific Islands
“People here are taught that the withdrawal method or cycle tracking are the only ways to manage family planning. That’s what I was doing when I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy, and I now have a one-year old daughter who I raise alone.
We face a lot of challenges here, one of them is disasters and the second is unemployment and school drop out with our youth. A lot of people drop out at senior level of high school and start to be influenced by alcohol.
I think parents’ skills are lacking on how to raise the youth. They tell their children they are not good enough or smart enough. I don’t agree with this though, I think everyone has potential.
Climate change here is affecting jobs, especially those who are fisherman. When there is a high tide and people can’t fish, there will be no money or earnings for that day, or even food for their family. Even the crops, eventually they will die due to too much hot sun.
There was one family in my community, whose livestock such as cabbage and pumpkins were killed by the saltwater. Even my family, we have lost all our pumpkins. My baby daughter should be able to eat vegetables – but now she cannot as they have all died.
One of my neighbours – who lived in the area most affected by flooding – lost their house and livelihood due to the rising sea levels. They tried to secure the land with sandbags, but they got discouraged when the high tide would come through. They have now migrated away.
Young People Leading Community Response to Climate Crisis
The youth in my village have been organized as a club since we were younger. We have been very active and now we are leaders. I have helped the Humanitarian Youth Club to apply for financial grants from the Australian High Commission [for $1,000]. I am recognized as the smartest member who can write in English.
During the Humanitarian Youth Club meetings, we discuss as a group what we can do for the next strong tide.
We discuss where we can gather as a community and what we can do if even the Maneaba [town hall] floods. If the tide and wind is too strong, we need to go to another safer place, such as another community’s town hall.
We have learned how to design a disaster plan for the community. We share our ideas on sexual reproductive issues such as STIs. The issues were demonstrated in a drama by youth in our community. One of the volunteers from KFHA described to us how it would feel to be a pregnant woman in a disaster.
For now, I want to enjoy the chance to be in our own beloved country.
I will not move until the majority have already left. I want my daughter to grow up in the same place I grew up in. Isn’t that what most people would want?”
This post was written by Nerida Williams, IPPF Senior Humanitarian Communications Advisor & Theta Kiraneti, Humanitarian Youth Club member, Kiribati. Share your insights in the comments section below!