Kiri­bati Has No COVID-19 Cases and Some Think That’s Be­cause of Co­conuts

Fiji Sun - - PACIFIC NEWS -

Aformer Bri­tish colony in the Cen­tral Pa­cific has been re­vealed as one of the 13 coun­tries in the world that has man­aged to re­main coro­n­avirus­free.

Kiri­bati is a set of is­lands and is one of the poor­est and fur­thest flung of all coun­tries in the globe with a Chris­tian pop­u­la­tion of just 116,000. The is­lands have a to­tal land area of 800 square kilo­me­tres and are vul­ner­a­ble to any rise in sea lev­els.

Co­conuts and COVID-19

Kiri­bati, which gained its in­de­pen­dence in 1979, has co­conut palms ev­ery­where, Star On­line re­ports.

They pro­vide ev­ery­thing needed to ex­ist on the is­land – wood for boats and build­ings, thatch for roofing and floor­ing, fi­bre for ropes and cloth.

Co­conuts, known as moimoto on the is­land, also pro­vides hy­dra­tion and nu­tri­tion but is now be­ing claimed to be the key to the is­land’s coro­n­avirus-free sta­tus. Rooti Tianaira, a pri­mary school teacher in Tarawa, the is­land’s cap­i­tal, said: “We’re us­ing moimoto to de­fend against the virus.It’s very rich in vi­ta­min C and vi­ta­min A. Our an­ces­tors used to eat grated co­conut and noni - an­other in­dige­nous fruit, known for its pun­gent taste but re­puted health­giv­ing prop­er­ties - for break­fast, and drink sour toddy (fer­mented co­conut juice).

“They were strong, with­out sick­ness. So now, these lo­cal fruits are used as medicine, to build up our im­mune sys­tem, that’s the idea. They are sold at stalls by the road.”

De­spite the num­ber of co­conuts out­num­ber­ing the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion Ri­mon Ri­mon, a lo­cal jour­nal­ist, warded off claims of prof­i­teer­ing say­ing it’s com­mon for them to be sold by traders

So­cial me­dia and mis­in­for­ma­tion

He said: “Ac­tu­ally, sell­ing co­conuts is not un­usual in Tarawa. “Not ev­ery­one has their own co­conut tree, es­pe­cially in the more pop­u­lated ar­eas, so those with­out jobs but who have a tree at home some­times sell co­conuts. But say­ing they can pre­vent coro­n­avirus? That’s a new one to me!”

The pow­ers of moimoto is one of the many “silly ru­mours” about COVID-19 that have been cir­cu­lat­ing in Kiri­bati, ac­cord­ing to Mr Ri­mon, which is ac­cel­er­ated by the re­cent growth in so­cial me­dia in a repub­lic with the UN sta­tus as a least de­vel­oped coun­try (LDC).

“It’s a ma­jor is­sue here,” Mr Ri­mon said.

“Most peo­ple only got ac­cess to the in­ter­net re­cently, and it’s just bom­bard­ing them with in­for­ma­tion.

“They don’t know how to dif­fer­en­ti­ate fake news, and so they pro­mote what’s not true.

“The co­conut thing is harm­less, but there’s also been a ru­mour that kava can stop COVID-19.” “That was a ridicu­lous ru­mour and the au­thor­i­ties had to run a cam­paign telling peo­ple this was not true,” Mr Ri­mon says.

“I’m an ed­u­cated man, I’ve lived over­seas, but many peo­ple here haven’t had ex­po­sure to the out­side world. You’d be sur­prised what kind of things they think are an is­sue.

“The govern­ment has no so­cial me­dia pol­icy, so it’s dif­fi­cult to con­trol where peo­ple get their in­for­ma­tion. The govern­ment needs to look at how peo­ple ac­cess in­for­ma­tion, warn them that they will get in trou­ble if they spread ru­mours.”

Child Fund NZ staff in Kiri­bati visit a fam­ily in Be­tio, Tarawa. They are sup­port­ing Kiri­bati with its COVID-19 pre­pared­ness by de­liv­er­ing hy­giene kits.

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