A remote collection of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the people of Kiribati (pronounced ki-ree-bas) face significant health challenges. A lack of fresh food has led to high rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. With the country covering an immense geographical area – mostly ocean – access to healthcare is often difficult; pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.
In Kiribati, MSF teams work on the main island, Tarawa, and on some of the remote outer islands, providing maternal and newborn care in hospitals and maternity wards. We focus on diagnosing and treating diabetes in pregnant women and improving care for newborn babies.
Our activities in 2022 in Kiribati
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2022.
Kiribati is a low-lying island nation in the Pacific Ocean, which is already experiencing the consequences of rising sea levels, including flooding, contamination of water sources and a lack of arable land. These factors have a direct impact on the health of the people of Kiribati; for example, insufficient availability of high-quality fresh food is contributing to high rates of obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, providing equitable access to healthcare is challenging, since the country’s islands are scattered across a vast swathe of the Pacific.
MSF initiated activities in Kiribati in March 2022, in response to a request from the Ministry of Health for support, as the country reopened its borders after the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, our teams worked to strengthen critical care capacity, by providing training to key healthcare workers and supplying critical care equipment.
The project has now refined its focus to support maternal and neonatal health on the main island of Tarawa, as well as on the remote Southern Gilbert Islands. Our aim is to reduce the high rates of illness and death among mothers and newborn babies. Our team works with local healthcare staff to improve the management of non-communicable diseases, particularly diabetes, during pregnancy, and provide training and clinical support during labour and delivery. We also train midwives, nurses and doctors in the universal Helping Babies Breathe programme, which focuses on enhancing neonatal resuscitation and newborn care skills.
In addition, MSF is helping to upgrade the infrastructure at Tabiteuea North hospital, implementing a sustainable approach when possible; for example, by using renewable energy and improving water supply and waste management.