18 Jul 2013

Pacific Partnership mission aids Kiribati

4:58 pm on 18 July 2013

A humanitarian aid mission is underway in Kiribati to improve its infrastructure so the nation can free up more resources for disaster preparedness.

The Pacific Partnership undertakes regular missions in the Asia Pacific region to build up national capacities to deal with natural disaster.

The US, Australian and New Zealand partnership gives assistance to ten Pacific nations, and is currently in Kiribati.

Leilani Momoisea reports:

For the first time, New Zealand is the lead partner of the Pacific Partnership mission in Kiribati. The deputy mission commander, Captain Tony Millar of the Royal New Zealand Navy, says their main focus is on building school and medical infrastructure. He says any area they can improve allows Kiribati to use their very scarce resources for other things.

"TONY MILLAR: We're also doing quite a bit of subject matter expert education and transference of knowledge, particularly in the nursing front and first aid. So anywhere we can help the resources of the host nation manage their resilience, we will do that. If it means helping them out in one area that allows them to concentrate or focus on another, we'll certainly look at that."

The acting deputy secretary of the Tungaru Central Hospital, Tekoaua Temaroa, says they are grateful to have the mission in Kiribati, as it's a great opportunity for dentists and nurses to upgrade their skills. He says the Pacific Partnership will also renovate several clinics, which will make services a better environment for both staff and patients.

TEKOUAUA TEMAROA: We are thinking of trying to provide services that are more efficient, more comfortable for them and they can be having an impact on their lives. We are more concentrating in trying to upgrade. Most of our staff they have been ablet to help us out in certain trainings, certain procedures maybe on resuscitation or any other medical procedures that are required for the benefit of our people.

Major Alistair Mitchell from the NZ Army says renovation of two extra classrooms for a secondary school will allow the school to deliver more lessons.

He says they are also working on renovating the dormitories and eating area at the Kiribati Teachers College.

And that will enable the teachers college to be able to bring teachers in from the outer-islands in order to deliver programmes that will increase the knowledge and ability of the teachers that are then, in turn, providing the education systems in Kiribati.

The deputy secretary in the office of the president, Terieta Mwemwenikeiki, says people are also living with and on unexploded weapons left over from the Second World War. He says they are deteriorating, with reports of some exploding in the sea on their own and threatening safety, but the government lacks the capacity to remove them. Mr Mwemwenikeiki says the government is pleased the partnership has agreed to help dispose of the unexploded ordnance.

The government has a role and responsibility to facilitate these operations in terms of getting the people's support during these operations because it might involve moving them from their home during the period of the operations. There have been a consultation with the communities. The response was positive by most of the community members and very welcoming of the operation because it's for their safety in the long term.

The Pacific Partnership is expected to be in Kiribati for 10 days, and will then move to Solomon Islands for the final leg of the mission.