Caritas Samoa report highlights clean water access

The COVID-19 global pandemic underscores the importance of having access to clean water in order to safeguard the health of the Samoan people.

That is the view of the Catholic humanitarian organisation Caritas Samoa, in a report released on October 4 titled State of the Environment for Oceania, which focused on access to clean and safe water for drinking and hygiene purposes.

The organisation’s service delivery in Samoa, in terms of the range of water access and quality issues in Samoa, was compiled by the Caritas Samoa Programme Coordinator Karen Anaya.

According to the report, Caritas Samoa, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services and with funding from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, created the Ready Environments Addressing COVID-19 and Hygiene project [REACH]. 

The report stated that one of the main activities of the USD$216,896 project involved the installation of nine 100,000 litre water tanks with their own water harvesting system around the island of Upolu. 

These tanks will serve as hand washing stations and water collection points for hygiene activities such as cleaning and disinfecting clothes and surfaces and provide water to 114 households [including more than 1,000 people] in the districts of I tupa i Lalo, I tupa i Luga, Falelatai and Samatau. 

“This project aims to alleviate the lack of access in those areas especially during the dry season. The carting of water will be arranged to replenish the tanks,” stated the Caritas Samoa report. 

As for the I tupa i lalo and i tupa i luga Districts, Caritas Samoa said groundwater sources between Lalomanu and Amaile are threatened by the rapid inland development in these areas, and previous water boreholes in the area were contaminated with saline zone intrusion.

“The Samoa Water Authority planned to extend the existing piped water network to cover all remaining families without access to piped water inland of Ulutogia village but work is still underway.

“Under the Water and Sanitation Sector Plan 2016-2020, the Samoan government acknowledged that there was immediate need for the installation of water tanks for families residing inland without access to water for consumption and domestic use, and to provide a suitable alternative water source for families receiving saline water.

“However, they often put the responsibility for rainwater harvesting systems on the village (who have no funds), NGOs, the Samoa Civil Society Support Programme, and the Ministry of Women and Social Development.”

In the Falelatai and Samatau District, Caritas Samoa said the local water supply is based at Samai, and includes three reservoirs which serve the village of Samai, Falevai, Matautu and Pata. 

“The remainder of the District is served by the Samoa Water Authority (SWA). A 100mm galvanized pipe follows the inland side of the Falelatai Coast Road and from that pipe 25mm PVC pipes provide connection to individual houses. 

“There are regular water supply problems in the district, particularly during dry periods. Based on Caritas Samoa consultations in the area, people inland (the poorest, isolated, and most vulnerable) are not connected to the pipe system. 

“There are two SWA boreholes in this district; one located near Samatau and one within Samatau but they are poorly maintained and from conversations with residents of Samatau, the water is contaminated and they have no clean reliable water supply.”

Last year the measles outbreak in Samoa on October 16, 2019 – led to its rapid spread and the loss of 83 lives – the Caritas Samoa report stated. The epidemic affected over 5,700 people especially children under the age of five. 

“Caritas Samoa was on the ground assisting families caring for their sick loved ones at home in remote areas of rural villages in environments not apt for successful recuperation, partly due to a lack of access to water and poor hygiene practices.

“Caritas Samoa provided assistance to 255 families and 470 people who contracted the virus in 68 villages in two islands. Caritas Samoa also provided relief to families and patients in three hospitals in addition to the large donations of food, bedsheets, nappies, and baby wipes provided for the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital in Apia.”

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