US$14 million World Bank project puts universal health care within reach for all I-Kiribati

By World Bank

US$14 million World Bank project puts universal health care within reach for all I-Kiribati

Families and communities across Kiribati will receive much-needed health support as part of the US$14 million Kiribati Health Systems Strengthening Project that has been approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The project will improve infrastructure and equipment across Kiribati’s hospitals, health centers, and clinics; provide in-service training to health workers; and enhance the country’s health information systems.

Kiribati is one of the smallest and most remote countries in the world. With a population of nearly 120,000, half the country’s citizens live on hard-to-reach outer islands, and the other half reside on the main island of South Tarawa, one of the most densely populated areas in the Pacific. The population grew by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, increasing the strain on a health system battling the twin challenges of servicing communities far removed from centralized services, and those struggling with the health impacts of urban density, such as inadequate sanitation.

“The Kiribati Government is prioritizing needs that will lead to meaningful improvements to higher quality healthcare across the country,” said Lasse Melgaard, World Bank Resident Representative for the South Pacific. “We are extremely pleased to be able to support these needs with both financial support and technical expertise.”

“There are various health challenges in Kiribati that need a multi-sector approach, such as the growth in rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), access to antenatal care, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that sadly arrived on the country’s shores in January this year,” said the Honorable Vice President and Minister of Finance Dr. Teuea Toatu. “This project will help strengthen our entire health care system and support workers with the skills and equipment they need to provide the best care to I-Kiribati no matter where they live.”

Through the Kiribati Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the project will contribute to the health and wellbeing of I-Kiribati families and communities and work towards achieving universal health care through more equitable access to quality health services. The project will include the delivery of essential equipment and supplies along with the refurbishment of health facilities across the country, including support for the rebuilding of the London Kiritimati hospital. The project will also upgrade Kiribati’s health information system, increase access to telehealth services, and will also fund the purchase of sea ambulances for outer islands to enable faster more effective emergency support.

In addition, health workers will receive training on current approaches in maternal, neonatal, and child healthcare, infection prevention control, and health care waste management, as well as specific training on supporting survivors of gender-based violence. The refurbishment of health facilities will also include separate examination rooms, waiting areas, bathrooms, and protected areas for survivors of gender-based violence.

“We want to contribute to making sure all survivors of gender-based violence feel safe when accessing health and support services,” said the World Bank’s Lasse Melgaard. “Supporting survivors of gender-based violence is a critical focus for our projects across the Pacific and is a challenge that cannot be tackled by one sector alone.”