Entertainment by Kiribati students during the opening of the new medical clinic on Buariki.
A project supported by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) saw the recent construction of a climate-proof health clinic in Buariki village, North Tarawa, Kiribati.
Kiribati is one of the island countries under the Coastal-Community Adaptation Project (C-CAP), along with Fiji, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
USP Project Community Liaison Specialist Timoci Naivalulevu said climate change is threatening Pacific communities in many ways.
“Increased occurrences of drought, cyclones, and coastal flooding increases the threat of diseases in rural communities,” he said.
According to Mr Naivalulevu, Buariki community members prioritised the medical clinic due to the increase in outbreaks of diseases from contaminated water supplies caused by salt water intrusion.
“Having a proper medical facility strengthens the community's resilience to climate change by providing access to good basic health services,” he added.
Mr Naivalulevu further commended the effort by Mr Toaki Arinoko, the Kiribati C-CAP Country Coordinator.
“Mr Arinoko’s effort and endless hard work enabled the project to progress well until its completion,” he added.
Mr Marouea Iakobwa, the Social Mobiliser of Buariki, stated, "This clinic is the best I have seen in the country as it will benefit over 200 men, women and children in this village who do not have to go far when there is a shortage of medicine."
An elated Sister Tireita Namakei, the nurse in charge of the clinic said her old clinic was a mere shack.
“If there was heavy rain, most of the medicine and medical supplies would be destroyed. I would have to wait for weeks until all of these are in stock. Many villagers usually suffered because of this and I could not do my work well,” she said.
The clinic was prioritised by the villagers of Buariki to combat frequent outbreaks of diseases brought about by contamination of water sources from salt water intrusion and vector borne diseases spread by mosquitoes.
United States Ambassador to Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Nauru and Tuvalu Her Excellency, Judith Cefkin launched the project on 19 October, 2016 and was joined by Mr Moannata Ientaake - Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Lands, Agriculture and Development; Ms Ereti Timeon - Director of Health and Medical Services; Ms Tarema Henry - Protocol Officer of Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with other government and community representatives.
USP, with support from USAID began working with communities in 2014 through the C-CAP project.
Following vulnerability assessments and raising awareness about climate change projections, Buariki community members identified improved access to health services as their priority climate change adaptation need.
Groundwater supply in Buariki is under increased pressure due to population pressure, poor sanitation, drought, and extreme sea level events that result in saltwater infiltration.
Buariki reported that the groundwater contamination that occurs as a result of these challenges has contributed to an increase in communicable disease in the community.
The 9 x 7 meter Health Clinic features climate-proof roofing with cyclone strapping on support beams and specialised roofing screws, cyclone-resilient exterior and interior walls, protective grating on the windows, and water and sanitation facilities.
It also functions as a rainwater catchment system, with 7,000 liter storage capacity, which includes design modifications to improve water quality.
In addition to being structurally resilient to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters, the Health Clinic increases the community’s overall health and resilience. Now community members will have a secure structure for treatment of communicable and vector-borne diseases that are projected to increase due to the effects of climate change.
“Climate change is affecting communities all over the world, but perhaps the hardest hit are the coastal communities like yours here in the Pacific Islands region,” noted HE Cefkin.
“We recognise this great challenge. C-CAP has been an important component of the United States Government’s efforts to catalyse adaptation to climate change in the Pacific Islands region,” she said.
USP and USAID through C-CAP, partnered with each community to design and build four rainwater harvesting systems that are graded to withstand Category 5 Tropical Cyclone conditions for a total of 40 systems across the Province.
C-CAP is building community resilience to climate change in the Pacific region by: rehabilitating and constructing new, small-scale community infrastructure; and building capacity for community engagement for disaster prevention and preparedness.
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