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Imagine there's no water

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

IMAGINE living without water at home for a single day. We're not talking about just a disruption to the water supply where you know that things will eventually be rectified. We're talking about there being no water at the source and that single day stretches into several and then the days become weeks and eventually months.

It is not easy! Family members may end up quarrelling and some will definitely have to think of ways to go about getting water for the family's needs.

Water is a need. It is a daily necessity that human beings cannot live without.

The sad reality is that people all over the world are going through the disaster of having less or no water at all in their own homes, communities and villages.

In Fiji, most people particularly those in many settlements and farming areas in the Western Division, have been without water for the past seven or so months.

Those on the islands in the Yasawa and the Malolo group of islands are some of those facing the full brunt of water crisis.

A government barge carted water to schools and villages on these islands a fortnight ago. However, that was not sufficient to cater for all of them as boreholes are giving up and their water tanks are slowly drying up.

It is a crisis everyone hopes will pass soon but it is the reality that we face this time of the year as we head again into the cyclone period which is usually from the months of November to April annually.

A trip to Yanuya Village on Malolo a fortnight ago helped us discovered first-hand the difficulties villagers are facing daily.

No one is spared. Even children who are supposed to be fully enjoying the gifts of life are the very ones struggling to make good use of whatever little water they have left before they go to school in a day.

It was amazing to see these very children managing what little water they had because they know too well the importance of preserving water.

Some islanders said it was quite rare to have rain on the island and a fortnight ago, they said there hadn't been any drop of rain on the island for the past seven months. This has resulted in a water crisis.

Students of Namamanuca Primary School, located in the village, have been struggling to find water for their daily needs.

Villagers used water sparingly as the extreme dry weather conditions continue to dry up their only water source and wither crops.

The villagers rely on water from one borehole for washing and bathing and government-carted supply for cooking and drinking which is stored in two concrete tanks which have a combined capacity of 30,000 litres.

However, the two tanks have holes on their sides.

School headteacher Matai Beci said the island had received two shipments of water this year; one was in July and the other recently. Mr Beci said water would have to be ued wisely to cater for the islands 500 residents and 162 students.

The situation on the island was highlighted to officials from the United Nations Children's Fund when they recently visited the school for an update on the Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston WASH recovery program.

Mr Beci said the location of the island contributed to it receiving very little rain throughout the year.

He said while the villagers were grateful for Government's assistance, the treated water from Lautoka took months to reach their shores as they were not the only affected school.

"Our main challenge is access to enough safe water," he said.

"We are trying to make do with whatever resources we have, but it is getting very difficult, especially for the students.

"To top off this challenge, our two tanks had holes on the sides which we managed to patch recently, but that is only a temporary fix."

Mr Beci said teachers had been working closely with students to minimise water use and to ensure whatever little water they had was put to good use.

He said when the situation became dire, families paid $40 for a return boat trip to Tokoriki Island, where hotel management there allowed them to fill water containers at no cost.

"We are very thankful for this, but it is quite expensive and not many families can afford to do this."

This is just Namamanuca only; imagine the many other families and children that are going through the same problem on other islands and even in places and farming settlements in the Western Division.

In part of the Western Division, cattle have been reported dead while sugar cane and other crops have withered as a result of the continuous dry weather.

It is sad to note that farmers have even been quoted saying that brief showers did not even make a difference to the weather and they have tried their very best to make do with whatever little water they have left or even take their cattle to a nearby creek so they can at least have something to drink.

Pictures of drought-affected places show cracks in the soil.

While there has been some relief as rain has fallen in parts of the Western Division, it must be remembered that there will be other long spells of dry weather.

When that happens, and it will, people will need help as this basic need becomes scarce.








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