Young scavengers alarm

By Vatapuia Maiava ,

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Some of the teenagers hunting through the scraps at the Tafaigata landfill.

Some of the teenagers hunting through the scraps at the Tafaigata landfill. (Photo: Supplied)

More and more young children are turning up at the Tafa’igata Landfill to hunt for food and other items to help their families survive.

That’s according to a concerned citizen who sent this photo to the Samoa Observer hoping that the relevant authorities would take notice do something to stop it.

The citizen asked for his name not be printed, fearing potential repercussions on his work. 

But he is saddened that this has been allowed to continue for a long time now.

 “I visit that place (Tafaigata landfill) all the time to drop off my rubbish and I always see these young people walking around in gumboots looking for things to take home, some are as young as seven years old,” he said.

“It’s a real problem because those small gumboots will do little against broken glass, needles and sharp tin cans that litter the area.

“I read in the paper not long ago that the government is looking into the issue and that they are trying to do something about it but it seems to me that what they’re doing is not enough.”

The concerned citizen explains that the government needs to reassess their approach.

“Just talking to these children won’t be enough,” he said. “Building a bigger fence won’t help either because they can just climb over and continue doing what they are doing.

“Maybe it’s time for some more harsh treatment. I suggest fines or something to scare the parents to the point that they leave their children out of such a place.”

He added that the children are almost always there after the 4pm closing time.

“At times I would arrive late to the rubbish dump and I’ll give the guard some money to let me drop off my truck load,” he said.

“While I’m driving in, the children will scream out to bring my rubbish to where they are standing and dump it there, maybe they want first pick of the trash I bring in.

“There are those who block their faces because they are embarrassed, I can tell they do not want to be there and are forced by their family; but I guess they have no other options if their family is struggling.”

In an earlier interview with the Samoa Observer for a similar story published on the 17th of September this year, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Environment and Conservation of the M.N.R.E, Tauti Fuatino Leota, said the Ministry is monitoring the landfill.

 “What we are looking at now is a permanent fence for the landfill because that’s where most people enter,” she said. “But it’s true that many children are seen at the place and the Ministry has not taken those reports lightly.”

Tauti said they do have officials who enforce the safety regulations for those people involved that that the parents are told to not bring their children. She recalled one occasion when Police had to be called in because these parents did not adhere to the regulations at the landfill.  

“We are trying our best to advise them every single day to wear safety gear and that they are not allowed to bring their children with them...but it’s just that our people they don’t want to comply with rules and principles. 

“As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Ministry’s option to control the people that enter the landfill without our knowledge is a permanent fence to avoid problems there.”

Asked if such actions are seen at the landfill, the concerned citizen said he hasn’t seen anything done.

“I’m there at least once every two weeks, mainly on the weekend to drop off things, and I haven’t seen anyone approach these children to tell them to go home,” he said.

“Maybe they do it while I’m not there for my weekly drop offs but I haven’t seen it done. What I do notice are the workers at the rubbish dump doing their duty and paying no attention to the children walking around them searching.”

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