The 33 atolls that make up Kiribati – the former Gilbert Islands – occupy a vast area in the Pacific. They stretch nearly 4000 km from east to west more than 2000 km from north to south and straddle the Equator.

The country won independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Many of the atolls are inhabited; most of them are very low-lying and at risk from rising sea levels.