The Republic of Kiribati is the only country in the world to be located in all four hemispheres. This island nation in the Pacific Ocean consists of 32 atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs) and one raised coral island. The total land area is 811 square kilometers, with islands spread out over 3.5 million square kilometers. The population of 113,000 people is dispersed throughout these islands, with about half of the population residing on the Tarawa Atoll, which is also the capital. The majority of the population identifies as ethnically Kiribati, and speaks both Kiribati and English. Most of the people are Roman Catholic, with smaller portions identifying as Kiribati Uniting Church, Mormon, Baha’i, and Seventh Day Adventist.
Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Of the Pacific Island countries, it remains one of the least developed. It has few natural resources, and economic development is limited by Kiribati’s lack of skilled labor, poor infrastructure, and distance from international markets. Much of the economic activity involves the public sector: building roads, developing water and hygiene projects, and renovations to infrastructure. Otherwise, fisheries and the export of coconuts and coconut products are the main drivers of economic activity. Because of limited economic opportunities, as much as 31 percent of the population is unemployed.
Kiribati suffers from a variety of health challenges, including one of the highest adult obesity rates in the world. Because about 46 percent of the adult population is considered obese, a litany of non-communicable diseases tops the list of most common causes of death. These include ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, which all increased substantially between 2009 and 2019. Other leading causes of death include tuberculosis, neonatal disorders, diarrheal diseases, asthma, chronic kidney disease, lower respiratory infections, and self-harm. In addition to high body-mass index, the risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include high fasting plasma glucose, tobacco, high blood pressure, malnutrition, dietary risks, air pollution, high LDL, kidney dysfunction, and insufficient water, sanitation, and hygiene.
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