KIRIBATI—As one of the most beautiful, remote and endangered nations in the world, malnutrition in Kiribati has been steadily on the rise in relation to climate change. Consisting of 33 micro-islands in the mid-Pacific, rising sea levels have limited the already limited resources available.
Kiribati is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The country has very limited natural resources, food resources, access to fresh water (most water is gathered from rain) and a high unemployment rate. All of these factors contribute to the problem of malnutrition in Kiribati.
A team from the Liahona Children’s Foundation visited the country to determine the level and extent of malnutrition in Kiribati. The Liahona Children’s Foundation is “dedicated to eliminating malnutrition and illiteracy among Latter-day Saint children and their friends in the developing world. The Foundation is currently working with area and local leaders in over 120 stakes worldwide, including in Africa, Cambodia, Central America, South America, Mongolia and the Philippines.”
The Liahona team screened 550 children and 25 pregnant women. The team is able to assess the malnutrition in Kiribati based on growth charts established by the World Health Organization (WHO). These charts focus on gender, age, height and weight.
The WHO growth charts also establish what type of malnutrition may be occurring: wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age).
Out of the 550 children screened, 110 children were found to be malnourished. Of these children, stunting was the most common type of malnutrition found in Kiribati.
But malnutrition is not the only problem that plagues Kiribati. Because pregnant women also suffer from malnutrition, the infant mortality rate is nearly nine times greater than the infant mortality rate in the United States.
Bacterial infections and food poisoning are also prevalent in Kiribati. These problems could be easily prevented with more food sources available, along with educational cooking programs to educate the people of Kiribati how to avoid food poisoning. Bacterial infections could be easily cured with more access to antibiotics.
Life expectancy is nearly twenty years below that of a U.S. citizen. In other words, malnutrition in Kiribati is just the beginning of the problems that plague the island nation.
Kiribati is in critical need of assistance. “Without the aid of humanitarian organizations like the Liahona Children’s Foundation, the Island Rescue Project, the United Nations and the European Union, and assistance from neighboring countries, including Australia, New Zealand, China and Taiwan, things would be even worse.”
Malnutrition in Kiribati is the base of the problems plaguing the island nation. Malnutrition contributes to the high infant mortality rate, weakened immune systems and low life expectancy. When basic human needs are met, malnutrition in Kiribati can be eliminated, improving the quality of life for generations.
– Kerri Szulak
Sources: Meridian Magazine 1, Meridian Magazine 2,