A low-lying atoll nation in the central Pacific Ocean, Kiribati has a population of just over 110,000 people. The 33 atolls that make up Kiribati, occupy a vast area in the Pacific. Kiribati straddles the equator and stretches nearly 4,000 km from east to west, and more than 2,000 km from north to south. Most of the islands are less than 2 km wide, and no higher than 6 m above sea level.
Kiribati faces a moderate degree of risk to natural disasters. Most of the population lives a subsistence lifestyle as Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Island countries. Even minor emergencies can overwhelm national capacity and significantly affect communities and the economy.
Kiribati is also located in an area of high seismic activity and undersea earthquakes can generate destructive tsunamis. Due to the low level of some of the islands, Kiribati is highly vulnerable to the effects of tidal surges and sea level rises.
To date, no major rapid onset natural disaster has occurred, however climate-change related events are of increasing concern. Since November 2016 below average rainfall has led to an ongoing drought across the country, with the southern island most severely affected. Kiribati’s traditional dry season, or Aumaiaki, occurs between April and September, with the rainy season, or Aumeang, from October to March. However, due to changes in climate, the country has been experiencing extreme drought-like conditions even during the traditional rainy season.
The Government has been taking a proactive leadership role to strengthen its capacity to respond to and mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and climate change. The Government continue to work with regional and international actors in mitigating the impact of drought in Kiribati. The country’s National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), operates under the Office of the President and is responsible for the overall coordination of disaster risk management activities in the country.
The UN maintains a joint presence office in Kiribati with UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA. In June 2017, OCHA supported the NDMO in information management and communication as part of the droughts preparedness and response led by Government.