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Sinking isles face new rising threat

KIRIBATI has been a world leader in the field of climate change, punching way above its weight and keeping the spotlight on global warming and sea level rise. Climate change is, after all, a crisis which threatens to engulf this tiny Pacific state and push it under the waves. Former President Anote Tong has been so passionate and outspoken on the issue that he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – the only Pacific leader to be so honoured. But his replacement, Taneti Mamau, knows there is another, more urgent, crisis facing his island republic and that is the rapid increase of Non-Communicable Disease.

With a population of just over 100,000 growing at 2.2 per cent according to the Asian Development Bank, around 90 people a year lose a limb to diabetes. Mamau told the recent Pacific NCD Summit in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, that 70- 75 per cent of deaths in the Pacific today are related to NCDs and 40 per cent of those are premature deaths – people dying before they reach their 40th birthday. In Kiribati, close to 50 per cent of people visiting health facilities have diabetes and 46.9 per cent have hypertension. The worrying fact for Mamau is that most of those people are between 20 and 30 years old.

Much of the hypertension has been blamed on that tobacco consumption. Kiribati has the highest smoking prevalence rate of 52 per cent for both sexes in the Pacific and the second highest in obesity prevalence of 46 per cent. Mamau said the rate of amputation continued to rise with seven to eight people a month losing a limb or limbs.

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