U.S. Ambassador Breaks Ground on Climate Change Adaptation Project in Kiribati

As part of her first official trip to Kiribati last week, US Ambassador Judith Cefkin visited the village of Buariki in North Tarawa to break ground for a new medical aid clinic—a facility that will provide medical services to over 700 villagers who face health issues exacerbated by climate change, particularly water borne diseases such as diarrhea and hepatitis. The clinic will provide a safe, clean environment for health workers to serve the village community.

Ambassador Cefkin said, “We are so proud that under the auspices of our USAID/C-CAP program we are able to collaborate with you on this project. We see the effects; we know that climate change is producing higher oceans and worse storms are directly affecting your communities. And we also attach great priority to good health. It was input from you, the members of the community, that established what the priorities were for this USAID project.” Ambassador Cefkin emphasized the role of these types of facilities to help the most vulnerable members of the community—women, children, the elderly and those with special needs.

The Kiribati Minister of Health thanked the US Ambassador and the USAID/C-CAP team for their commitment to providing the new medical aid clinic building and pledged support by the government of Kiribati in providing the clinic with medical supplies and staff to serve the community’s needs.

The project is funded by the American people through the USAID/Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP) and has been developed in conjunction with the Kiribati Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development (MELAD), Ministry of Health, the Island Council, and members of the Buariki community.

In Buariki, droughts have become a common climatic event and the community’s underground water supplies have been contaminated by sea level rise, severely impacting their water supply and their health. The problem is compounded by increasing population density and poor sanitation.

After a community-led process that identified and ranked climate related health impacts as a priority in Buariki, the USAID/C-CAP team presented the community with plans for the new clinic that will be built using climate resilient materials to withstand more severe weather conditions and higher ‘king tides’, a naturally occurring event when the earth, sun and moon align in ways that create the highest tides of the year. Rising sea levels created by climate change are creating king tides that can sometimes completely flood villages that were previously dry all year. The new clinic is designed with fresh water tanks to catch rain water and solar panel systems to provide fresh, clean water and power to the facility.