Water Contamination

Water contamination was also identified to occur from dumping rubbish (solid waste) into the water, through runoff and silt (dirt) contamination and by animals wandering freely throughout villages. The latter problem of animals defecating in or near water supplies was deemed of particular problem connected with water quality in many communities.

In addition to containing roaming animals, other suggested solutions for water contamination included clean water tanks for storage (Aola & Mahe), fencing off water supply (Mahe) and Makina participants suggested “water testing to make sure the tap water and water sources are clean and free from dirt.”

All communities unanimously identified addressing poor water quality as a priority issue.

• Lack of, or poor quality, toilets were perceived as the major water contaminant although industrial or waste disposal was also recognised.
• There is a perceived lack of knowledge and technical ability for finding and implementing solutions to toilet problems
• Containment of roaming animals (and their defecation) is a community strategy that could be easily supported.

Health Services

A lack of adequate health services was raised as a significant issue for many communities, and was the second highest ranked issue behind water in relation to the environment and health. In general, the main issue was difficulty in accessing professional services and or medicines. For example; women in Makina said that the “distance to the nearest clinic is too far and can be bad for people who are very sick – a clinic within the community is needed”. Communities were required to travel to neighbouring villages or towns for health services or otherwise had health centres that were run down and completely without staff and resources (e.g. Valupai).

Suggestions for improved health services focused on better local access to doctors, nurses, and medications. Provision of assistance from Government or other organisations from outside the community was seen as necessary to implement such changes.

Participants from several communities also perceived that difficulties in accessing and availability of traditional medicinal plants further added to the problem of poor health services. Difficulty in accessing medicinal plants was generally linked to clearing of forests or gardens (see section on Natural Environments and logging, below).

• Communities perceive a lack of adequate health services, in particular the distance that is required in order to access health facilities.
• Communities look to Government or outside help for solutions or provision of improved services.

Health and Women

Women discussed several issues concerning health that were generally not raised by men, leaders or youth. This included concerns about women’s work (e.g collecting water) that impacted on health and education, family planning, and respect for ‘women’s rights’.

Women in Papua New Guinea found that the need to walk long distances to find water was affecting their ability to participate in other activities, such as earning money, and was also affecting children’s education because the children were assisting their mothers instead of attending school. Women in Vanuatu also found they were too busy with work (cleaning etc), restricting their freedom to undertake other duties such as caring for children. Mahe women said “if only women were given free times, then they can be practicing what they are planning for their kids and their family…talk about family planning with their children, teach their traditional styles of weaving mats…”.

Women perceived that they had an important role in children’s education, particularly in relation to cultural knowledge and language.

Family planning was an issue for women in Vanuatu and PNG. Women in both countries felt family planning was important to control population growth and that women were getting pregnant while too young. PNG participants said that this contributed to higher mortality rates of women during childbirth. Mahe women believed that family planning was important but also said it was a sensitive issue: they supported the concept of a women’s health committee to address such issues.

Changes from customary marriage and living arrangements had also affected family planning and population levels: for example, in Silanga there was no longer separation of men and women in customary houses (e.g. Hous Boi); “the men and women were separated, a type of family planning, the men were ridiculed if they stayed with their wife.”

• High workload impacts on women’s ability to act on health, education and family planning issues
• Family planning is seen as an important but sensitive issue, particularly in Vanuatu and PNG

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