Despite its idyllic location, relaxed island lifestyle and sea breezes, the small nation island of Kiribati has the highest incidence of
TB in the Western Pacific. TB spreads rapidly in densely populated areas and overcrowded homes and
with 36,000 people or one third of the Kiribati
population residing on the tiny capital Tarawa it is not surprising that housing is at a premium forcing many people to live communally in Maneabas
otherwise known as meeting halls.
“We arrived at a large well-lit maneaba, where many people were living inside around the outer area, so that the main big area was empty or left for
people to sleep in at night. It was a strange feeling to go into what seemed to be many people’s houses. (They had stoves and possessions in small sections
for each family group around the edge of the maneaba.) You could see how easily sicknesses could spread where people live in such close proximity?
Jo Dorras Wan Smol Bag Founder
Along with overcrowding, another “friend?of TB is ignorance and stigma, preventing people from seeking treatment and hence increasing the burden of the
disease. The Kiribati TB Control Project, Community DOTS Workers (CDWs) are tasked with visiting TB Patients at home once a day to observe them taking
their medication, a procedure known as Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS). They describe one of the hardest parts of their job as
“searching for the patients in order to give them their drugs?as it is believed that “the patient is ashamed to be seen by people when taking the
pills and so the patient hides himself from us? The result is the occurrence of new TB cases. 1n late 2007 Dr Taketaiu Beriki, the then Chief TB Doctor
of Tarawa Hospital reported an alarming incidence of 2-3 new positive cases identified per day.
To help stop the spread of TB through ignorance, ARC funded and supported the Communication and Drama Training for CDWS and related NGOs. The theatre
group Wan Smol Bag was recruited from Vanuatu to lead a 2 week workshop which culminated in the performance and filming of a 30 minute musical play about
TB in the I- Kiribati language.
The approach has already proven successful with both the community and the TB Control Project lauding its value in connecting with people to raise
awareness and in reaching those via DVD on the remote outer islands where services are limited.
“At About 19.45 Yaxley told me that there were 79 children, under 15 in the audience, 60 women and 32 men. The actors were nearly all there and we decided
to start. Amazingly, the actors/ participants had arranged all sorts of extra props, like oars for a boat and various uniforms and clothes I had not even
They started. And they kept going. People laughed a lot and a few mistakes were made, but the audience really seemed to follow the play and got quite
upset about certain things and of course laughed uproariously at others. But they watched and shouted at the kids to be quiet. By the end there were
about 250 people in the audience?
Jo Dorras Wan Smol Bag Founder and Play director
“From the point of view of CDWs it was a success and it
has built into them a lot of confidence as a group and
as individuals in the conduct of their daily work?
Dr. Takeieta B Kienene, Director Kiribati TB Control project
“Drama is building as the way forward, not just in Kiribati but in the Region? Dr Janet O’Connor, TB Specialist, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)