Water Quality and Sanitation

Suggested solutions included cementing around creek and pumping water to the village (Valupai) and building rainwater tanks (Valupai, Silanga), build new wells (Silanga, Aola), clean water tanks for storage (Aola, Vitawa), fencing off water supply (Mahe), maintaining or replacing distribution pipes (Vitawa).

Table 2. Water sources available at participating communities

• Overall a variety of water sources are in use, although often only one source per community.

• Lack of access or irregular supply of water is perceived as an important and urgent issue.

• Outside assistance (either from Government, private industry or aid) is perceived as necessary to implement solutions.

Water Quality & Sanitation

All communities surveyed in Fiji, PNG and the Solomon Islands perceived water quality and associated health problems to be a high priority. Water quality was generally of less concern in Vanuatu although the Mahe community said that water quality and their water storage tank was of particular concern. Youth perceived water contamination to be a problem in Eratap, however it was not recognised as a serious issue by community leaders or women.

In general, communities saw a strong link between water quality and diseases. The most common illness thought to be connected with water quality was diarrhoea. Typhoid (Silanga), pink-worm (Eratap), scabies, grille and ‘itchiness of the body’ were also reported. However, leaders in Silanga expressed the opinion that some people do not understand the causes of diseases “

Water contamination was often described as ‘pollution’ and was thought to come from a variety of sources including toilets, rubbish dumping, changes in hydrology through clearing and runoff from agricultural land. The lack of toilets or inadequate toilets, were often connected with water pollution and disease. For example, participants from Valupai reported that the creek used for water supply was also sometimes used as a toilet. Many community members perceived a link between toilets and groundwater contamination and its affect on water supplies. Participants in Aola reported that wells supplying water “were not 100% clean due to the leaching of waste materials dumped nearby”. Youth in Eratap said that pit toilets have major impact on their ground water, which is not treated before reaching the community tank, however this issue was not raised by leaders or women in the community.

Women and children washing and collecting drinking water in a stream near Valupai

The lack of suitable toilets was perceived to be a problem in all communities involved. Most participants in PNG and the Solomon Islands reported that the communities lacked toilets and that people mainly defecated in the bush or the sea. Water sealed toilets were the preferred style of toilet in Mahe (Vanuatu) although many households had only simple pit toilets due to the absence of reticulated water supply.

Valupai (PNG) and Vienuqa (Fiji) participants found that pit toilets were impractical or likely to cause groundwater contamination because the land is only marginally above sea level. This causes groundwater to rise within the pit toilets (for example one pit toilet in Valupai would overflow on particularly high tides).

The practice of defecation on the beach and in the bush was considered to be a health problem in the communities where it was practiced. For example, people in Valupai recognised that flies could carry contamination from uncovered defecation in the bush to food and utensils and hence spread disease.

Several communities knew that they required suitable toilets as a solution to water contamination but they felt that they lacked the knowledge, skills and resources required to build them. However, some communities also suggested that it was due to laziness, especially by the men. Although the need for appropriate alternatives to inadequate pit toilets or absence of toilets was regularly raised, communities did not identify or suggest any specific methods for rectification such as composting toilets.

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people are ignorant of the causes of diseases and blame it on sorcery”. Fijian participants perceived links between water quality and disease, but did not describe any details.