Comoros

European Commission backs major clean-up of Comoros water supply

UNICEF Image: Comoros clean water
© UNICEF video
Children of Comoros play in water contaminated by garbage. The island’s water supply is polluted not only by volcano eruptions but by poor sanitary conditions as well.

By Sarah Crowe

As part of the launch of ‘Progress for Children No. 5: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation’, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories focused on achieving the 2015 targets set by Millennium Development Goal 7 – to halve  the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

MORONI, Comoros, 18 September 2006 – For the beautiful tropical archipelago of Comoros, water is a blessing and a curse. Mount Karthala, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has erupted three times in the past year, spewing toxic ash into the islands’ water supply.

To make matters worse, bad hygiene practices and poor sanitation conditions mean that garbage is often discarded in the sea. Because of this, many children fall prey to waterborne killers like cholera and diarrhoea.

UNICEF Image: Comoros clean water
© UNICEF video
UNICEF has been working with the Comorian Government to clean up more than 1,500 reservoirs after they were contaminated by toxic volcanic ash.

Reservoirs cleaned and protected

“Even though we are completely surrounded by water, water is a major problem here,” said the Comorian Vice President for Health, Solidarity and Promotion, Ikililou Dhoinine.

Now, UNICEF, the Comorian Government and other partners have put in place a major project to bring clean drinking water to the country’s population. With funding of almost $1.3 million from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office, the project has helped clean more than 1,500 reservoirs and protected them with a covering of corrugated iron.

In conjunction with the project, a massive awareness and advocacy campaign has been carried out this year, teaching Comorians about good hygiene and sanitation practices. They have also learned how to protect their precious water resources from volcanic ash, lava and other contaminants.

UNICEF Image: Comoros clean water
© UNICEF video
A worker protects a reservoir by installing a cover of corrugated iron.
Ongoing interventions

The Comorian Government has applauded the project but is also underlining the need for ongoing interventions.

“In the future, we are going to continue to need interventions like the one we have received from UNICEF,” said Mr. Dhoinine. “These are very important interventions because the villagers themselves are in charge of the water now.”

And in villages across Comoros, local leaders are already noticing a difference in water quality at the reservoirs.

“After the eruptions, there were ashes everywhere,” said one village elder, Ahmed Yahaya. “The water wasn’t clean but that was all we had to use. Children were always getting sick as a result. But since this new water project was established, we have access to safe drinking water all the time now.”

Children in the village agreed. “We haven’t had any stomach problems since this water has been cleaned up,” said one boy.


 

 

Video

18 September 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on the effort to clean up the water supply in Comoros after eruptions of Mount Karthala, one of the world's most active volcanoes.
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