Her 16 square meter house is at the foot of a forest and is surrounded by a garden of taro.
A couple of sheets of old corrugated iron make up the roof of the house and are held down by three large logs –chopped from the forest – and four large black stones.
Two large plastic bags hang from the roof, protecting the interior of the house and its inhabitants from the rain, which came pouring down that afternoon. In the distance, in the pouring rain, a young man could be seen tilling the soil, perhaps to plant more taro.
Muga Aukuso, 46, from Savaia Lefaga had sought refuge in her house from the rain, when the Samoa Observer called in. It was obvious that the family’s living condition is basic, if the makeshift walls and the roof are any indication.
Conversing with Muga, one soon realises the magnitude, and the irony of the daily challenges that they face. Samoa is located in one of the planet’s wettest regions and gets between 3000 to 6000 millimeters of rain annually. But that fact has made little difference in Muga’s life as access to clean water is a major challenge for her family.
“We need water for so many things like drinking, bathing, cooking food, washing clothes and also for the proper use of our waste management facility. At the moment we seek water from our neighbouring families, where we take buckets to be filled with water so we can have sufficient supply,” she said.
Surviving on the benevolence of grateful neighbours has kept the family going since they moved into the area in May this year.
“But I’m both grateful and sad at the same time because we do not want to be a burden on them but we are blessed that they are so kind to us.”
The house caters for six: Muga and her husband, their three children and a grandchild. Six pandanus mats, which are put on the soil and rocky floor every night for the family to sleep on, provides a certain level of comfort before waking up to a new day.
Muga’s husband is a carpenter and breadwinner of the family, but the demand for his services can be intermittent.
“I am so thankful to my husband for his hard work in providing for our family, but because his work as a carpenter depends on the demand and need for houses to be built that is why it is unstable. There are times when there is no work offered so we have no choice but to wait but we are blessed when there is an opportunity for work,” she said.
A power pole stands 150 meters away from the house and power lines going to the southern coast of Upolu can be seen from Muga’s house. Unfortunately, close proximity to the power grid has translated to zero benefits for the family. They do not have money to pull a line to their home, and they would rather have water instead of power.
“We also do not have access to electricity supply – we only use a light that works on batteries. But with the little money we can get we budget really well for food and daily necessities but water is a big struggle,” Muga added.
Every day is a struggle and they rely on the land to cater for their needs, which is why one of her sons stopped working and returned home.
“One of my sons stopped working just so he can help with caring for our land and doing chores around the house. I know we have so little but I am grateful to have my family with me, even though we struggle but we are happy to be alive. We thank God for everything especially when we are blessed with the rain, which is also our source of water.”
If you are willing to help or assist the family of Muga Aukuso please contact her on 7589108.