World Bank commits US$2.5m to strengthen health systems in Kiribati

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Kiribati’s health system is set for a boost with the World Bank approving US$2.5 million (approx. AU$3.6 million) in funding to build capacity for essential service delivery to prepare Kiribati for COVID-19 and other future public health threats.

Kiribati remains one of 12 countries globally without a confirmed COVID-19 case. However, the risks are high that COVID-19 could spread widely and rapidly should the disease reach the country. This World Bank funding will support the construction of a new central medical store and an upgrade of the existing warehouse at Kiribati’s Tungaru Central Hospital.

The project will also support telehealth services to help Kiribati connect its four hospitals and many of the clinics across the islands to a centralized health information database and communication system; a complex challenge in one of the most remote and dispersed countries on earth.

“Now more than ever, it is essential to ensure that, as a country, we are prepared for future epidemics and have the capacity and resources needed to respond to any health threats in order to protect our people, including our frontline health workers,” said Kiribati’s Vice President, Hon. Dr. Teuea Toatu. “This support from the World Bank will enable the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) to respond to future epidemics, as well as build stronger longer-term foundations for health security and service delivery systems that will benefit Kiribati for years to come.”

“We are proud to be supporting the Government of Kiribati in its fight to ensure that the country stays COVID-19 free,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “We are also proud that the impacts delivered through this project will help to protect i-Kiribati lives beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and deliver better health outcomes for the country into the future.”

This project is being implemented by the Kiribati MHMS, in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy and the Ministry of Information, Communication, Transport and Tourism Development. The World Bank’s support is being coordinated with key partners including the governments of Australia, China and New Zealand, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Asian Development Bank.

In the Pacific, COVID-19 response projects have already been approved for Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji with additional long-term response and recovery projects to be announced.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 87 projects totaling US$1.8 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.