H.E. President of Kiribati

Introduction and Background

Kiribati is one of the 14 countries in the Pacific region supported by UNICEF regional office in Suva in Fiji. The population of Kiribati is only 107,000 living in 33 coral islands. The major five islands are 1) Tarawa South and North 2) Abaiang 3) Nonouti 4) Abemama and 5) Makin in the Gillbert group of islands. There are 8 islands in Line group of islands. Phoneix group of islands have 8 islands and west Gillbert has got 1 island (Ocean Island).

The Government of Kiribati with the support of UNICEF under KIRIWATSAN programme decided to introduce the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in the country in late 2012. A two member delegation from the KIRIWATSAN project was sent to participate in the international conference of CLTS Foundation held in Ranchi, India in December, 2012.

I visited Kiribati for 3 weeks in late February and early March when I facilitated  a six days hands-on training of trainer’s workshop in Tarawa followed by a three days visit to Tarawa North island when all the 13 villages of the island was triggered by the workshop participants. I also had many meetings and discussions with the ministers and senior Government officials. Most importantly our meeting with the H.E. Anote Tong, President of Kiribati was very significant when on my suggestion H.E. President agreed to initiate a nation wide movement to make Kiribati as the first ODF nation in the region using CLTS approach. That was a landmark decision taken by the President, which re-vibrated and spread all over the country through the 65 participants who came from 16 islands from the Gillbert groups of the country. I also had meeting with the Minister of Environment and Agriculture Tiarite Kwong, Minister of Public Works and Utility Mr Kirabuke Teiaua, Director of Health and the Senior Secretaries of the MoPW&U, Education and Environment.

I must say that my visit to Kiribati was quite fruitful in terms of advocacy, capacity building and in institutionalization of CLTS in the government’s national sanitation policy. I was thoroughly impressed by the political will and strong determination of the Government of Kiribati to initiate all out effort to transform the country as one of the first ODF countries in the region using CLTS. In view of the fairly smaller population, it is quite possible for Kiribati not only to achieve the MDG sanitation target but achieving a full ODF status.

During my 3 weeks of stay in Kiribati, the first ODF village emerged within a week of triggering. The village was located just opposite to the International Airport in Tarawa. A grand ODF celebration was organized by the enthused community and the KIRIWATSON project to celebrate the success of the very first ODF community in Kiribati. H.E. President of Kiribati and the first lady visited the ODF village and inspected the different low cost toilets constructed by the community. A function with local music and dance performed by the community was addressed by the President declaring the CLTS movement in Kiribati. In the coming 2-3 months many villages of this island nation will become ODF. The population of Kiribati is looking forward to achieve country wide ODF status within the MDG period of December 2015.

Major activities carried out during my visit to Kiribati

Purpose of my visit was threefold. The basic purpose of my visit was to introduce CLTS in the country and build capacity of the staffs of the Government ministries, UNICEF, local NGOS and other formal and informal institutions on CLTS. Second most important agenda was to advocate the senior government policy and decision makers to create an enabling environment for scaling up of CLTS and its spread all over Kiribati to enhance faster access to sanitation by the country’s 109,000 population living in 32 islands. The third focus was to develop a cluster of ODF villages through triggering and immediate post triggering follow-up using the front line staff of the relevant ministers so as to create a replicable model for all the islands f the nation. ​

The following major activities were carried out:

  1.  I had the opportunity of meeting with the H.E. President of Kiribati on the second day of my arrival to this island nation, when I could discuss and explain the CLTS approach to him and the great possibility of Kiribati to achieve Open Defecation Free status and declare as the first ODF countries in the Pacific region. The meeting was great and we could discuss many possibilities and the eventual positive outcome from improvement in sanitation. I was accompanied by Ms. Nuzat, Head of UNICEF country office in Kiribati and Mr. Gabriel Rosario, WASH Specialist of the Region based in Suva, Fiji.
  2. We met Mr. Tiarite Kwong Honorable Minister of Environment and Agriculture and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry in his office to discuss the possibility of involving the ministry in the national sanitation campaign.
  3. We also met the Minister of Public Works and Utility Mr. Kirabuke Teiaua at his office and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Mr………. at their respective offices. The MWP&U is the lead agency in implementing KIRIWATSAN-I project.
  4. Meeting with the Bishop of Kiribati and senior leaders of the Church and explain CLTS and the need for involving all the Perish Priests in the nation wide sanitation campaign to stop OD.
  5. Facilitating six days ‘hands-on’ training of trainer’s workshop on CLTS in south Tarawa
  6. Triggering all the 13 villages of North Tarawa island and ensuring follow-up support to make the entire island ODF in the shortest possible time.
  7. Facilitating the visit of President of Kiribati to the very first ODF (nearly) village in the country and declare a national level drive on sanitation using CLTS in Kiribati.
  8. Celebrating the success of three week long CLTS activities in Kiribati in a closing function at the national Maniaba in Tarawa with many invitees including the Permanent Secretaries of Education, Public Works and Utilities and Environment.

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