On World Water Day, March 22, David Kakiakia explained his hope for Kiribati, which is suffering from severe drought.
Kiribati has the highest infant mortality rates in the Pacific linked directly to unsafe drinking water, according to Childfund.
The country has very low ground water which is contaminated by salt and rubbish. Climate change is making it worse with rising sea water, periods of drought and sporadic rains.
Recently a member of the Kiribati parliament, Teima Onorio, said the island of Arorae has had almost no rain for two years.
And the island of Banaba has been through water crises for each of the past three years.
Kakiakia, who is the ChildFund Kiribati programmes director and a Kiribati resident from the northern-most island Mankin, knows the challenges people face first-hand.
"When I was a kid, I had to walk to get water. It took me about 20 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes walking from where I lived to that place," he said.
He's been working with the ChildFund team and locals installing solar water distillation systems, solar water purifiers and doing community outreach in an effort to save lives.
He said he dreams of expanding support to outer islands because at the moment his team is only able to support residents on Kiribati's main island, due to insufficient funds.
Kakiakia said while his team receives funding from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, donations from the general public are greatly needed.
The main islands and outer islands rely on groundwater, Kakiakia said.
"We raise awareness to the population and to community members about how they can keep their water safe. Not only that, but also the awareness around the practicalities around how they handle their water."
At the moment the whole of Kiribati is under a boil water notice. Kakiakia said it is more complicated than just boiling water.
"Just because you boil your water doesn't mean it will be totally safe," he said.
"How they handle the water may be something that they need to be careful of.
"There were some households complaining and asking 'how did my water result turn out to be positive or contaminated'?"
He said the boiled water needs to be kept in a clean container and a disinfected cup should be used to then get the water out, not a contaminated cup.
As part of his job Kakiakia tests the water households consume.
State of disaster
In September 2022 UNICEF said the drought can lead to poor health and hygiene practices from the lack of clean water.
In June last year, the Kiribati government declared a state of disaster after the discovery of high salinity levels in monitoring wells and low rainfall.
Kakiakia said he is active on a drought committee and the key stakeholders can't tell when the drought period will end.
He said Kiribati remains at Alert Level 3, meaning the water salinity has increased.
Kiribati Public Utillities Board said Alert Level 3 - Drought is the highest level of alert and is declared once specific rainfall conditions and impacts on the Bonriki water reserve are observed.
"Restrictions may need to be in place for more than 12 months while the system recovers and to ensure that it can be used to provide fresh clean water over a longer period," a Public Utilities Board spokesperson said in June 2022.
While Kakiakia has no idea how long the issues will go on for, he said he has an "ambitious hope for the future," and calls on the rest of the world to support Kiribati.
You can support local initiatives by texting WATER to 2474 to make a $3 donation to www.childfund.org.nz ChildFund.