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UNICEF Pacific Islands Humanitarian Situation Report No. 1 (Drought in Kiribati and Tuvalu): 08 August 2022

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  • La Niña is causing prolonged drought in equatorial Pacific, particularly in Kiribati and Tuvalu. Kiribati has proclaimed a state of emergency while Tuvalu has formally requested assistance from the UN.

  • UNICEF is providing technical support to the Government of Kiribati in the development of the government drought response plan, sector coordination, rapid assessment, data collection and analysis, and outreach and community engagement. UNICEF is engaging with the Government of Tuvalu to support their drought response plan.

  • UNICEF has also delivered 27 metric tons of WASH supplies to Kiribati, including household kits, water containers, purifying tablets and portable water testing kits.

  • The Governments of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Japan have also provided material and financial support to the drought response in Kiribati.

Situation in Numbers

Number of people in need of humanitarian assistance

Kiribati: 94,000 people

Tuvalu: 9,200 people

Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs

La Niña conditions were observed in the equatorial Pacific starting in November 2021. Since then, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, and Nauru have experienced high water stress because of low rainfall and dry conditions. This situation is expected to persist as La Niña is predicted to continue until the last quarter of 2022. On 11 June 2022, the Government of Kiribati proclaimed a state of disaster to manage and respond to the impact of the drought. This came in the wake of the reported high salinity levels of water in key monitoring wells and the forecast for below average rainfall in the coming months. The drought outlook is most concerning for islands in the Gilbert group, most notably in South/North Tarawa and the southern islands, including Maiana, Kuria, Abemama, Aranuka, Nonouti, Beru, Tabiteuea, Nikunau, Onotoa, Tamana, and Arorae. Over 94,000 people or 79% of Kiribati’s total population live on these islands. The Governments of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Japan have provided support to the drought response, which includes, among others, the provision of solar distillation units, repair of desalination plants, delivery of drinking water, and provision of jerry cans and water purifiers.

In Tuvalu, two of its islands (Nanumea, Nui) have been declared in drought conditions, four (Nanumaga, Niutao, Nukufetu, Funafuti) are in drought warning, and three (Vaitupu, Nukulaelae, Niulakita) under drought watch (not included in beneficiary numbers). Some 9,200 people or 86% of Tuvalu’s population are under drought or drought warning conditions. The Government of Tuvalu has developed their drought response plan and have formally asked the UN for support. Their plan s composed of two aspects: one is the immediate response which involves provision of reverse osmosis (RO) machines to generate fresh water in critical areas; and the other involves early anticipatory actions, including strategic deployment of RO units, conduct of household surveys and water soundings, maintenance of water storage and community wells, and WASH outreach targeting children.