Island awarded for poo-free beaches

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:14 14/05/2013
Tarawa
MICHAEL FIELD/Fairfax NZ
FILTHY: A fouled beach on South Tarawa.

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A small central Pacific island has won a United Nation's award for something much of the developed world takes for granted - it has been declared the Pacific's first "open defecation-free" or ODF island.

Open defecation - going to the toilet on the beach - has long been a curse on Tarawa, the capital atoll of Kiribati.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has bestowed its ODF honour on North Tarawa Island, but not South Tarawa where the bulk of Kiribati's 101,000 people live.

UNICEF spokeswoman Nuzhat Shahzadi said that while only 5000 people lived on North Tarawa, its achievement was a major leap for Kiribati becoming a completely open defecation-free nation.

"This is a tremendous achievement for the people of North Tarawa to be declared an ODF island in a country where up to 70 per cent of people in many communities still practice open defecation," she said.

North Tarawa Island can now look forward to significant reduction in diarrheal diseases and lower infant and under five mortality rates as a result.

UNICEF says that around the world about 2.5 billion people do not use improved sanitation facilities, mostly in the poorest households and rural areas of which 90 per cent were still practising open defecation, the riskiest sanitation practice.

Tooti Rangaba of Nooto village on North Tarawa Island said before the honour, most people used the beaches and mangroves for the toilet, and people got sick.

"Some of the children in our village died from dehydration after having diarrhoea."

Kiribati President Anote Tong has set December 2015 as the target date for the whole nation to become ODF.

The Micronesian nation has been so embarrassed by its toilet habits that when one visiting journalist wrote about it he was given a decade-long banning order from the country.

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