10 Mar 2021

Remote Kiribati island calls for help with water crisis

5:21 pm on 10 March 2021

One of the most remote islands in the Pacific is pleading for help from New Zealand and Australia to deal with a water crisis.

Banaba is suffering from a drought

Banaba is suffering from a drought Photo: supplied

The Kiribati island of Banaba, just six kilometres in area and 285 kilometres from its nearest neighbour, Nauru, is struggling.

The island was decimated by phosphate mining many years ago with most of the population relocating to Rabi Island in Fiji in the 1940s.

But several hundred people still live there and an elder, Roubena Ritata, has taken to Facebook to draw attention to the acute need of water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.

The island had two desalination plants but they were both out of action, with the Kiribati Government seeking parts for repair.

It's been three months since the second desalination plant on the island was broken and it's been almost a year without substantial rain

Ritata said people were drinking salty water, children were suffering diarrhoea and skin diseases were rampant.

He said New Zealand and Australia were the beneficiaries of the phosphate mining and now the islanders were asking both countries to help out in the crisis, "because they have the resources and capacity to do so."

"We are thankful for the assistance provided by the Kiribati government, but it is not good enough. We are calling on Australia and New Zealand and the international community to respond to this crisis because they have the resource and capacity to do so," Ritata said.

Abandoned water tank on Banaba

Abandoned water tank on Banaba Photo: supplied