Water Shortage Hits Pacific Women

15 Apr 2013 Posted by: Water Network Research

The Solomon Islands, a developing island nation in the south-west Pacific Islands, has one of the highest urbanisation rates in the region, and the basic service infrastructure is struggling to cater for the influx of people from the provinces to the capital, Honiara. Thirty-five percent of the city's population, who live in informal settlements, are facing the health consequences of a dire shortage of clean water and sanitation.

Households throughout Honiara experience shortages of clean water for cooking, drinking and washing on a daily basis. But in the informal settlements a household survey has revealed that 92 percent do not have any water supply to their homes, 27 percent use communal stand taps and 20 percent collect water from wells, rivers and streams.

Sanitation coverage in the Solomon Islands is 32 percent, according to the Solomon Islands Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector Brief (WASH), while the regional average is 46 percent. In the urban settlements of Honiara, only 2 percent of people have access to flush toilets, 20 percent use pit toilets and 55 percent use the sea, river or nearby land.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) population growth is one factor impacting the availability of fresh water in many Pacific Island nations, as it is in the Solomon Islands.

But much of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure in Honiara was seriously damaged during the ‘Tensions' and, since then, development funding has prioritised peace and reconciliation, law and justice, governance and economic development.

A spokesperson for the Solomon Islands Water Authority (SIWA), which is responsible for the urban water supply, explained to IPS that the "current (water supply) network is not able to supply the water demand due to pipe restrictions and the limited and aged pipe network cannot meet the demand of the rapidly expanding population in Honiara."  Thus regular water shortages result when "rationing of water has to be implemented to ensure that everyone has access to water."

However, in squatter settlements most people live without piped water.

Water for washing and bathing is from the well," Alison, a resident of Henderson Settlement, home to 3,000 people on the urban outskirts told IPS. "But we have to go far to look for our water for drinking and cooking. We just look for where people have tanks and then ask them if they will allow us to use some of their tank water."

Lord Howe Settlement, situated adjacent to the city centre, comprises several hundred migrants from the Polynesian island Ontong Java in the eastern Solomon Islands.

The community has access to one communal tap for every three to four families which provides town supplied water during certain hours of the day," Father Muliava, the local pastor said. "But there are days when the tap is dry and there is no water. We store water in plastic containers and try and manage the supply."

The state of sanitation is equally critical. "There are about three houses here which have proper sanitation, but most people use the nearby beach, even though it is not safe to use at night," Father Muliava said.

April 8, 2013

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