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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

Torres Islands Leader Speaks Out About Food, Water And Health Crisis

A Torres Islands’ community leader in Vanuatu has said that the islanders are facing acute shortages in water and even food.

Torres Islands Area Secretary, Daniel Lolvin, said the islands need aid now, but that not enough was being done by the government to help them.

“We’ve got a problem with the water. Our water sources are not safe.”

Lolvin also explained that the islands didn’t have enough water in the current dry season. Even when it does rain, the wells, apparently not correctly built, are vulnerable to pollution from surface mud.

People from the main, most densely inhabited island of Loh “have to travel by boat to [the southernmost island of] Toga to fetch water in containers and go bring it back to their island”.

These boat trips cost 15,000 vatu, a price that many can’t afford; This is especially problematic if planes don’t come frequently enough to collect the coconut crabs that Loh exports.

“They have to wait, and it is not easy to make money there.”

On Toga, Lolvin said, the community only makes money through copra, and when the ship doesn’t come they don’t have money.

Lolvin said that diarrhea was a long-standing, but ongoing problem on the Torres Islands. On the night before he spoke to the Daily Post, his own grandson had suffered of a bout of severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Lolvin said there was a doctor from Gaua who provided some vital medical services.

However, for many, travel between islands to access medical care was unaffordable. “If they have cash, they can make it to the hospital… if the ship is not coming, we don’t have any cash”.

There used to be only a very small number of deaths from preventable diseases, but now it was three or four deaths per year, Lolvin mentioned.

Lolvin noted that there are aid posts across the Torres Islands. However, on Toga island, the aid-post building was destroyed by a natural disaster some while ago. While there is an aid post worker stationed on Toga, that aid post has not been rebuilt, despite a substantial population relying on it. More medical supplies are also needed.

The islands are facing acute crop and food problems. Lolvin explained that low rainfall in recent months has severely affected crops that had already suffered from El Nino.

Kumala, island cabbage, yam and taro were not growing well. Some crops “don’t even grow” at all.

This had caused food shortages. “We [now] depend for food on rice, but at the moment we have only a small amount of rice left.”

Loh had been worst affected, Lolvin said. Its inhabitants are having to travel to other islands to get food, or rely on people from the other islands to bring them supplies.

People are also relying on seafood, but Lolvin stated this was negatively affecting the quantity produced for export. Thus, he implied, it is contributing to deepening economic problems in the community.

Lolvin said climate change is severely effecting the islands. “In the past we knew the seasons to plant crops, but now the climate has changed.”

Lolvin said aid organisations had, years ago, visited the islands to conduct surveys, but nothing much had been done. One aid organisation had distributed some water containers in the Torres Islands. However, these containers were not big enough to sustain the households they were given to. “You can only drink one cup and then it’s finished.”

While more water containers would be useful, Lolvin argued that the most effective solution would be to create a proper water supply system, by drilling wells and building much needed pumps to fully supply the communities.

He said he felt aid organisations and the government were not reaching out Torres Islands communities enough.

“I think they don’t come and do the assessment in our communities… maybe because they don’t get the right information, that is why we don’t get the help”.

Even after El Nino, the government had not sent any official to assess the needs of Torres Islands’ communities, Lolvin said.

“We need help now,” Lolvin concluded..


Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on 7:05 PM. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article


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