Over the last couple of decades there been a population explosion that's now putting pressure on just about everything in daily life in the islands already suffering from the worst effects of climate change.
The UN Population Fund is working with the Kiribati government to try to resolve many problems through their National Population Strategy.
Presenter: Brian Abbott
Speaker: Laurent Zessler, United Nations Population Fund in the Pacific
ZESSLER: We have noticed a very rapid population growth in Kiribati. The population growth is 2.2 per cent, the fertility rate is 3.9, so that mean every woman has approximately four children or more. And we have also a rapid urbanisation, I mean in Kiribati, so this is something that these are the facts,and we are quite clear that the government establish a new parliamentary committee called the Population Management and Development Committee, which you're going to look at the population issues and also, of course, the climate change situation. But the climate change relation issues are two associated issues, and this is what we discussed with the government of Kiribati.
The other issue that we discuss is the upcoming census next year, 2015, there is a need to count the population of Kiribati, because this is done every five years and it should take place and also we talked about that and the last thing that we talked about is how to address this rapid population growth, so that we have to talk about right size families, I mean so that means families with less children, that means access to contraceptive and really more extensive and I would say more comprehensive program on family planning.
ABBOTT: Is there resistance in Kiribati to a family planning program, because there is resistance in a lot of Pacific countries, because of religious and cultural reasons?
ZESSLER: Well, what I've seen is the following. We have several churches in Kiribati, however, we have seen a pragmatic approach from the Catholic Church, in particular. They're saying well, they, the population growth, which is now obvious and so that means some measure should be taken. So we fear, of course, there is a what we have seen, there is a kind of a well, let's do something about it, and I think this is a positive development.
There is not a strong opposition to what the government intends to do and what the government is doing in terms of access to contraceptive, and what we talk about in Kiribati which is right size family. I think the thing is now as you know, everybody's aware of it and we don't see a strong opposition to that, that's a very positive point for us.
ABBOTT: Now, this is something that needs to be tackled now. Is that a program that produces or provides contraceptives ready to go or is it something that has to be developed and will be introduced maybe 12 months down the line?
ZESSLER: Ah, no, no, no. This is no, we discussed with the Cabinet, with the President. This is really something ready to go now, because in Kiribati you have no time. I mean the time is, you know the climate change issues and this is something Kiribati is concerned about climate change. The President is a very, very committed leader, an advocate about climate change and also when you look at the situation in Kiribati, I mean you see the young population everywhere, you see a large number of families, have a large number of children. So I mean this is something that should be addressed now and I have discussed with the different ministers and the Minister of Health and so on and he's committed, he's committed. How do you reach the population in Kiribati? You don't go door to door. You have to work with the community, the elders at the village level to talk about modern contraceptive methods and access really to contraception and that's something that should be done now.