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Kiribati: First Open Defecation Free (ODF) Island in the Pacific

© UNICEF Pacific/2012/GRozario
Children at the launch of the KIRIWATSAN Project

North Tarawa, 11 May 2013 – Today, North Tarawa Island is the first island in Kiribati and the Pacific to be declared open defecation free (ODF) - thanks to the initiatives of the “Kiriwatsan I Project” which is led by Ministry of Public Works and Utilities (MPWU)  with technical support from UNICEF and funded by the European Union.

Chief of UNICEF Field Office and the Joint UN Presence in Kiribati, Nuzhat Shahzadi said, “This is a tremendous achievement for the people of North Tarawa to be declared an ODF Island in a country where up to 70 percent of people in many communities still practice open defecation. While the total population of North Tarawa Island is only about 5,000, this is a major leap for Kiribati becoming a completely open defecation free nation.”

Globally, around 2.5 billion people do not use improved sanitation facilities, mostly in the poorest households and rural areas of which, 90 percent are still practicing open defecation, the riskiest sanitation practice.  The people of North Tarawa Island can now look forward to significant reduction in diarrheal diseases and lower infant and under five mortality rates as a result of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiatives of the “Kiriwatsan I Project.”

The initial overall condition of the 13 villages on North Tarawa Island indicated that approximately 64 percent of the population was practicing open defecation. In March this year, these villages adopted the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach that was introduced through the “Kiriwatsan I Project” Training of Trainers (TOT) on CLTS that was conducted by Dr. Kamal Kar, the renowned global pioneer of the CLTS approach. The Kiriwatsan project team has been working with communities, Government and other partners to achieve ODF status in targeted areas.

Tooti Rangaba of Nooto village on North Tarawa Island said, “Before CLTS meeting, most of the people were using the beaches and mangroves for defecation and dumping their rubbish that made people sick. Some of the children in our village died from dehydration after having diarrhea.”

“I have strongly committed myself during this training to stop open defecation and have built a toilet for my family. My house yard is now very clean many thanks to Kiriwatsan project team from MPWU, UNICEF and EU for their work to improvement of our sanitation situation,” said Rangaba.

His Excellency, the President of Kiribati, Mr. Anote Tong  has urged MPWU and other line ministries to work closely in order to ensure that the Republic of Kiribati obtains ODF status by end of December 2015 as per the MDG Target.  Today’s celebration will be attended by  the Hon. Ministers of Education, Line and Phoenix  islands, Secretary of Ministry of Public Works and Utility, Chief of the Joint UN Presence Office in Kiribati, Australian High Commissioner in Kiribati and other distinguished guests, Mayor of North Tarawa, Kiriwatsan I project team, community engineers, school children and community members.



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