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Kiribati

Articles by Kiribati

Hannah Maule-ffinch
06 April 2022

Climate crisis, displacement, and sexual health – what are the links?

“This community needs to survive… The problem now is you can’t survive with the sea rise levels.” – Takaria Ubwaitoi, community leader and organizer in Bikenibeu, Kiribati The climate crisis is high on the global political agenda, but an aspect of it which is lesser explored is the displacement and refugee crisis that has already started to happen as a result – and with that the impact on sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights (SRHR).  As the rate of climate emergencies continues to increase – particularly in the Global South – millions (or even billions) of people can be expected to be forcibly displaced in the coming decades, either within their home countries or across borders. More often than not, these climate emergencies are being driven by the overconsumption of countries in the Global North, but experienced most heavily in the South. Impacts felt significantly by women and girls The immediate and obvious impact on SRHR is the disruption of regular health services. In the wake of a climate disaster, clinics that were previously offering services such as streamlined STI testing and treatment, safe abortion care, contraception, and maternal care risk losing the ability to do so with the same consistency and reliability. Humanitarian responses often see SRHR needs deprioritized, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, when in reality they are critical to a life-saving response. 

Mother and child.

In pictures: Healthcare in the face of the climate crisis in Kiribati

Humanitarian crises Largely brought on by sudden onset and slow-onset natural disasters, humanitarian crises are increasingly prevalent in the Pacific. During responses to humanitarian crises in the Pacific, sexual and reproductive healthcare is often under-prioritised and under-resourced. As a result, women and girls of reproductive age and vulnerable and marginalized groups are disproportionately affected and facing increased health and psychosocial risks. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Fragile environments Low topography, rising sea levels and insufficient fresh water supply leaves Kiribati’s population vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. The fragility of the outer islands of Kiribati during natural disasters is compounded by their geographic isolation, which makes transportation and communication during post-disaster relief and response both expensive and difficult. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Coastal exposure The majority of the population of 115,000 people live a subsistence lifestyle. Communities are geographically dispersed across 33 atolls covering 3.5 million square kilometres in the central Pacific Ocean. The population and infrastructure within Kiribati are largely concentrated on the coast, where communities face increased exposure to climate threats and natural hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes, king tides, flooding, droughts, and occasionally cyclones. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Takaria, leader and youth organizer in the Tebikenikua community Takaria will be running to be a Member of Parliament in Kiribati in 2020. “I assist the youth with family problems and family planning and disasters. In our community there are unforeseen pregnancies, domestic violence, and disasters such as high tide waters and strong winds, which can also affect this community. The Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) is the key point for us with outreach and training so people in this community know how to prevent and treat STIs, etc. They all know where the KFHA clinic is and that they can get counselling or services there. The problem now is you can’t survive with the sea rise levels. I want all members of my community to live better and have better health and peace.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Susan*, sex worker Susan receives care at the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) including a pap smear. Susan*, 28, is a sex worker from the town of Betio on the main island of Kiribati. Originally from an outlying island, she moved into Tarawa to seek work. Unable to find employment that would fulfill her dream of sending money back to her two children, she was introduced to sex work. With other sex workers, she regularly travels out to the large cargo ships from China, Philippines and Korea anchored off the coast of Kiribati. Despite her new income, she still can’t speak with her children or see them due to the restrictive costs involved of travel between islands.*pseudonym Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Theta, 25-year-old mother and youth volunteer Theta is part of the Humanitarian Youth Club set up by the Kiribati Family Health Association in her village. “We face a lot of situations here, one of them is disasters and the second is unemployment and school drop out with our youth. 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. We have learned how to design a disaster plan for the community and share our ideas on sexual and reproductive issues such as STIs. We discuss what we can do for the next strong tide, where we can gather as a community and what we can do if even the maneabe (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. For now, I want to enjoy the chance to be in our own beloved country. I won’t move until the majority have already left. I want my daughter to grow up in the same place I grew up in.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Beitau, youth volunteer Beitau is the Chairperson of the Humanitarian Youth Club. “I was lucky to be selected as Chairperson as the Humanitarian Youth Club. I feel like I get more respect from the community now I am in this position. I would love advanced training on leadership now, to further assist the club. As I am the Chairperson of the HYC, my main target is to help people during a disaster. I have attended training through KFHA. What I took from this is that when a disaster strikes, we have to do our best for pregnant women, small children and people with disabilities. They more vulnerable and less able to survive a disaster.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Abe, youth officer Abe was involved with KFHA since 2012. “I was inspired by what they KFHA was doing and the issues they were addressing that affects youth. I was surprised to see how many young people come to the clinic as they are affected by STIs, HIV and teenage pregnancy. The lack of education here is a big problem, most people here have a lot of children and yet can’t afford to send them to school. Sexual and reproductive health is our responsibility and we must talk about it with young people. Climate change affects many countries, but Kiribati is small and low lying. I used to go visit a very nice beach with a lot of nice trees and plants. Now, the trees are gone, and the waves have taken over, and the houses have disappeared so no one can build there. In my role as a youth worker and activist, I tell people to fight climate change: to grow more mangroves, to clean up the beach, because we love our Kiribati.”©IPPF/Hannah Maule-Ffinch/Kiribati Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email

Abe, Assistant Youth Officer for the Kiribati Family Health Association
15 June 2020

Kiribati: Abe the 'Youth Warrior'

“I didn’t know about reproductive and sexual rights issues myself,” says Abe, 29, the Assistant Youth Officer from the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA), the leading NGO service provider in advocating for reproductive health care and in fostering the rights for all individuals in Kiribati. “So that’s why I recommend to young people in Kiribati. It’s time to be talking about SRHR early on, let’s not wait until young people get in trouble.” Abe's voice reveals the energy and passion of someone who is doing what they were destined to do. His bright smile widens when he tells me he is a proud member of the LGBTI community. He is also a proud member of his local church. I ask him how he tackles the two divergent worlds of sexual and reproductive health and rights, as the teachings of his church forbids modern contraception methods. He has clearly given this topic a lot of thought. “Even during my Sunday school sessions, I speak about SRH (sexual and reproductive health). I speak with them about family planning and the issue in Kiribati of over population. I know my community. I ask them what they think about this. And then they ask for the KFHA nurses to visit our community, that’s why we have visited at least three times over the past years with free services.” The challenge of climate change Kiribati, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, covers 3.5 million square kilometres. Formed by the coral that once rimmed a volcano, the little organic material available in the soil means agriculture is difficult. Low topography, rising sea levels and insufficient fresh water supply leaves Kiribati’s population vulnerable to the effects of climate change – particularly during the king tides each month. It also experiences urban over-population issues; half of the entire population of Kiribati live on the main island of Tarawa. There are many issues affecting the youth population: too few employment opportunities, and rates of teenage pregnancy, unprotected sex and STIs (sexually-transmitted infection) are reported to be high. “SRH is one of the main issues in Kiribati as most of the young people don’t know enough about SRH from home or school. In our culture we cannot talk to children about these issues as its considered rude. Because of this, young people grow up with little knowledge about SRH, which is why teenage pregnancy is so high in Kiribati – the second highest in the Pacific” Abe says. “But sometimes, even when they have the knowledge, they still don’t come to the KFHA clinic as they are worried their family will find out and ask them what is happening. That is why they keep their problems to themselves and end up with STI/HIV issues. But our mobile clinics are one way to combat this issue and provide outreach to the community directly.” KFHA’s mobile clinics travel from village to village providing sexual and reproductive heath and advice, such as STI testing and treatment and contraceptives. They even travel out to the remote outer islands. “Climate change affects many countries, but Kiribati is so small and low lying. For us, the issue of over population is linked to climate change. People feel like they are not safe here. In my role as a youth worker and activist, I tell people to fight climate change: to grow more mangroves and to clean up the beach. Because we love our Kiribati.” 

Norma Yeeting receiving her award from President Taneti Mamau
02 August 2018

Kiribati sexual health advocate receives Distinguished Service Award

In July 2018, Norma Yeeting, Executive Director of Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA), was presented with Kiribati’s Distinguished Service Award. With only five recipients in 2018, this prestigious award was presented by His Excellency the President of Kiribati, Taneti Mamau, as part of Kiribati’s 39th Independence Day celebrations. The award recognises Norma’s service to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and her contributions to the development of Kiribati.   A lifelong advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, Norma became Executive Director of KFHA – the leading SRHR association in Kiribati – in 2010. Comprising 33 coral atolls (i.e. low-lying islands) scattered across two million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, delivering SRHR services in Kiribati is an ongoing challenge. Under Norma’s leadership, KFHA have overcome significant barriers to expand their lifesaving work from the capital of South Tarawa to cover 12 outer islands, reaching an estimated 75% of the population.  Positive impact on island communities Norma was nominated for the award by KFHA staff and board members and her application was staunchly supported by the mayors of Kiribati’s island councils, who stressed the impact that Norma and KFHA’s work has had on their island communities. This is testament to KFHA’s outreach work and the time they have taken to forge relationships with the local communities across Kiribati’s islands. KFHA’s outreach to the outer islands focuses on community development in addition to sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowering the community to set their own priorities and take ownership of projects. Prior to joining KFHA, Norma worked with the Kiribati government, first as the Development Officer, from 1983-1992 with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Decentralization. Then, in 1995, she was appointed Senior Economist in the Ministry of Environment and Social Development before becoming the Planning Officer for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. After retiring from the public service, Norma joined KFHA as the Executive Director in 2010. Since then, she has taken the organisation from strength to strength. "Very proud" Norma was keen to stress that this award was more than just a personal achievement, saying “it is a very big achievement for the organization as a whole.” The fact that Norma was one of only five recipients confirms that the “government of Kiribati is recognising the good work and contributions of KFHA to the National Developments.” Norma went on to say that she was, “very proud to go back to donors and show that what they have invested, the outcomes have been well recognized by the government.” Last year, Norma was also acknowledged by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), as one of 70 inspirational women in the Pacific, to mark the 70th anniversary of the SPC.   

Kiribati Family Health Association

Despite having one of the Pacific's most challenging sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) indicators, the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) has managed to expand the scope and reach of SRHR to those most in need.

In the last few years, KFHA has rolled out an exciting array of sexuality education campaigns nationwide, including the successful KFHA Drama Group, which was lauded as a creative approach in the outreach and dissemination of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information.

The association is one of the leading NGO on SRHR and also working on GBV. The government of Kiribati, FBOs and the provincial has been working closely with KFHA. This is evident through MoU that was signed by the association with 8 provincial councils enabling them to provide continuous services on SRHR to these provinces.

 

 

Hannah Maule-ffinch
06 April 2022

Climate crisis, displacement, and sexual health – what are the links?

“This community needs to survive… The problem now is you can’t survive with the sea rise levels.” – Takaria Ubwaitoi, community leader and organizer in Bikenibeu, Kiribati The climate crisis is high on the global political agenda, but an aspect of it which is lesser explored is the displacement and refugee crisis that has already started to happen as a result – and with that the impact on sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights (SRHR).  As the rate of climate emergencies continues to increase – particularly in the Global South – millions (or even billions) of people can be expected to be forcibly displaced in the coming decades, either within their home countries or across borders. More often than not, these climate emergencies are being driven by the overconsumption of countries in the Global North, but experienced most heavily in the South. Impacts felt significantly by women and girls The immediate and obvious impact on SRHR is the disruption of regular health services. In the wake of a climate disaster, clinics that were previously offering services such as streamlined STI testing and treatment, safe abortion care, contraception, and maternal care risk losing the ability to do so with the same consistency and reliability. Humanitarian responses often see SRHR needs deprioritized, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, when in reality they are critical to a life-saving response. 

Mother and child.

In pictures: Healthcare in the face of the climate crisis in Kiribati

Humanitarian crises Largely brought on by sudden onset and slow-onset natural disasters, humanitarian crises are increasingly prevalent in the Pacific. During responses to humanitarian crises in the Pacific, sexual and reproductive healthcare is often under-prioritised and under-resourced. As a result, women and girls of reproductive age and vulnerable and marginalized groups are disproportionately affected and facing increased health and psychosocial risks. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Fragile environments Low topography, rising sea levels and insufficient fresh water supply leaves Kiribati’s population vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. The fragility of the outer islands of Kiribati during natural disasters is compounded by their geographic isolation, which makes transportation and communication during post-disaster relief and response both expensive and difficult. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Coastal exposure The majority of the population of 115,000 people live a subsistence lifestyle. Communities are geographically dispersed across 33 atolls covering 3.5 million square kilometres in the central Pacific Ocean. The population and infrastructure within Kiribati are largely concentrated on the coast, where communities face increased exposure to climate threats and natural hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes, king tides, flooding, droughts, and occasionally cyclones. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Takaria, leader and youth organizer in the Tebikenikua community Takaria will be running to be a Member of Parliament in Kiribati in 2020. “I assist the youth with family problems and family planning and disasters. In our community there are unforeseen pregnancies, domestic violence, and disasters such as high tide waters and strong winds, which can also affect this community. The Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) is the key point for us with outreach and training so people in this community know how to prevent and treat STIs, etc. They all know where the KFHA clinic is and that they can get counselling or services there. The problem now is you can’t survive with the sea rise levels. I want all members of my community to live better and have better health and peace.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Susan*, sex worker Susan receives care at the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) including a pap smear. Susan*, 28, is a sex worker from the town of Betio on the main island of Kiribati. Originally from an outlying island, she moved into Tarawa to seek work. Unable to find employment that would fulfill her dream of sending money back to her two children, she was introduced to sex work. With other sex workers, she regularly travels out to the large cargo ships from China, Philippines and Korea anchored off the coast of Kiribati. Despite her new income, she still can’t speak with her children or see them due to the restrictive costs involved of travel between islands.*pseudonym Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Theta, 25-year-old mother and youth volunteer Theta is part of the Humanitarian Youth Club set up by the Kiribati Family Health Association in her village. “We face a lot of situations here, one of them is disasters and the second is unemployment and school drop out with our youth. 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. We have learned how to design a disaster plan for the community and share our ideas on sexual and reproductive issues such as STIs. We discuss what we can do for the next strong tide, where we can gather as a community and what we can do if even the maneabe (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. For now, I want to enjoy the chance to be in our own beloved country. I won’t move until the majority have already left. I want my daughter to grow up in the same place I grew up in.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Beitau, youth volunteer Beitau is the Chairperson of the Humanitarian Youth Club. “I was lucky to be selected as Chairperson as the Humanitarian Youth Club. I feel like I get more respect from the community now I am in this position. I would love advanced training on leadership now, to further assist the club. As I am the Chairperson of the HYC, my main target is to help people during a disaster. I have attended training through KFHA. What I took from this is that when a disaster strikes, we have to do our best for pregnant women, small children and people with disabilities. They more vulnerable and less able to survive a disaster.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email Abe, youth officer Abe was involved with KFHA since 2012. “I was inspired by what they KFHA was doing and the issues they were addressing that affects youth. I was surprised to see how many young people come to the clinic as they are affected by STIs, HIV and teenage pregnancy. The lack of education here is a big problem, most people here have a lot of children and yet can’t afford to send them to school. Sexual and reproductive health is our responsibility and we must talk about it with young people. Climate change affects many countries, but Kiribati is small and low lying. I used to go visit a very nice beach with a lot of nice trees and plants. Now, the trees are gone, and the waves have taken over, and the houses have disappeared so no one can build there. In my role as a youth worker and activist, I tell people to fight climate change: to grow more mangroves, to clean up the beach, because we love our Kiribati.”©IPPF/Hannah Maule-Ffinch/Kiribati Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via WhatsApp Share via Email

Abe, Assistant Youth Officer for the Kiribati Family Health Association
15 June 2020

Kiribati: Abe the 'Youth Warrior'

“I didn’t know about reproductive and sexual rights issues myself,” says Abe, 29, the Assistant Youth Officer from the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA), the leading NGO service provider in advocating for reproductive health care and in fostering the rights for all individuals in Kiribati. “So that’s why I recommend to young people in Kiribati. It’s time to be talking about SRHR early on, let’s not wait until young people get in trouble.” Abe's voice reveals the energy and passion of someone who is doing what they were destined to do. His bright smile widens when he tells me he is a proud member of the LGBTI community. He is also a proud member of his local church. I ask him how he tackles the two divergent worlds of sexual and reproductive health and rights, as the teachings of his church forbids modern contraception methods. He has clearly given this topic a lot of thought. “Even during my Sunday school sessions, I speak about SRH (sexual and reproductive health). I speak with them about family planning and the issue in Kiribati of over population. I know my community. I ask them what they think about this. And then they ask for the KFHA nurses to visit our community, that’s why we have visited at least three times over the past years with free services.” The challenge of climate change Kiribati, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, covers 3.5 million square kilometres. Formed by the coral that once rimmed a volcano, the little organic material available in the soil means agriculture is difficult. Low topography, rising sea levels and insufficient fresh water supply leaves Kiribati’s population vulnerable to the effects of climate change – particularly during the king tides each month. It also experiences urban over-population issues; half of the entire population of Kiribati live on the main island of Tarawa. There are many issues affecting the youth population: too few employment opportunities, and rates of teenage pregnancy, unprotected sex and STIs (sexually-transmitted infection) are reported to be high. “SRH is one of the main issues in Kiribati as most of the young people don’t know enough about SRH from home or school. In our culture we cannot talk to children about these issues as its considered rude. Because of this, young people grow up with little knowledge about SRH, which is why teenage pregnancy is so high in Kiribati – the second highest in the Pacific” Abe says. “But sometimes, even when they have the knowledge, they still don’t come to the KFHA clinic as they are worried their family will find out and ask them what is happening. That is why they keep their problems to themselves and end up with STI/HIV issues. But our mobile clinics are one way to combat this issue and provide outreach to the community directly.” KFHA’s mobile clinics travel from village to village providing sexual and reproductive heath and advice, such as STI testing and treatment and contraceptives. They even travel out to the remote outer islands. “Climate change affects many countries, but Kiribati is so small and low lying. For us, the issue of over population is linked to climate change. People feel like they are not safe here. In my role as a youth worker and activist, I tell people to fight climate change: to grow more mangroves and to clean up the beach. Because we love our Kiribati.” 

Norma Yeeting receiving her award from President Taneti Mamau
02 August 2018

Kiribati sexual health advocate receives Distinguished Service Award

In July 2018, Norma Yeeting, Executive Director of Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA), was presented with Kiribati’s Distinguished Service Award. With only five recipients in 2018, this prestigious award was presented by His Excellency the President of Kiribati, Taneti Mamau, as part of Kiribati’s 39th Independence Day celebrations. The award recognises Norma’s service to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and her contributions to the development of Kiribati.   A lifelong advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, Norma became Executive Director of KFHA – the leading SRHR association in Kiribati – in 2010. Comprising 33 coral atolls (i.e. low-lying islands) scattered across two million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, delivering SRHR services in Kiribati is an ongoing challenge. Under Norma’s leadership, KFHA have overcome significant barriers to expand their lifesaving work from the capital of South Tarawa to cover 12 outer islands, reaching an estimated 75% of the population.  Positive impact on island communities Norma was nominated for the award by KFHA staff and board members and her application was staunchly supported by the mayors of Kiribati’s island councils, who stressed the impact that Norma and KFHA’s work has had on their island communities. This is testament to KFHA’s outreach work and the time they have taken to forge relationships with the local communities across Kiribati’s islands. KFHA’s outreach to the outer islands focuses on community development in addition to sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowering the community to set their own priorities and take ownership of projects. Prior to joining KFHA, Norma worked with the Kiribati government, first as the Development Officer, from 1983-1992 with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Decentralization. Then, in 1995, she was appointed Senior Economist in the Ministry of Environment and Social Development before becoming the Planning Officer for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. After retiring from the public service, Norma joined KFHA as the Executive Director in 2010. Since then, she has taken the organisation from strength to strength. "Very proud" Norma was keen to stress that this award was more than just a personal achievement, saying “it is a very big achievement for the organization as a whole.” The fact that Norma was one of only five recipients confirms that the “government of Kiribati is recognising the good work and contributions of KFHA to the National Developments.” Norma went on to say that she was, “very proud to go back to donors and show that what they have invested, the outcomes have been well recognized by the government.” Last year, Norma was also acknowledged by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), as one of 70 inspirational women in the Pacific, to mark the 70th anniversary of the SPC.   

Kiribati Family Health Association

Despite having one of the Pacific's most challenging sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) indicators, the Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) has managed to expand the scope and reach of SRHR to those most in need.

In the last few years, KFHA has rolled out an exciting array of sexuality education campaigns nationwide, including the successful KFHA Drama Group, which was lauded as a creative approach in the outreach and dissemination of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information.

The association is one of the leading NGO on SRHR and also working on GBV. The government of Kiribati, FBOs and the provincial has been working closely with KFHA. This is evident through MoU that was signed by the association with 8 provincial councils enabling them to provide continuous services on SRHR to these provinces.