SCAVENGING FOR A LIVING IN SAMOA

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By Terry Tavita

APIA, Samoa (August 8, 2002 – Samoa Observer)---Reports in Parliament of people scavenging the dumpsite at Tafaigata for a living were largely substantiated after a visit there yesterday by the Samoa Observer.

The dumpsite, located about half a kilometer from the prison, is hard to miss as the stench invades your senses before you even see it.

Driving through the mountains of refuse is akin to visiting an uninhabitable wasteland of debris.

Except in this case, there were hoards of people foraging through trash, seeking oddities of some value, gems among the scrap heap.

Whole families, from bent old women to young toddlers, young men to pregnant women, were scrounging on this moonscape of garbage.

Adding new meaning to the old adage that "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure."

Their presence is complimented only by packs of stray animals and millions of flies that have made this place their home.

And if you think that there are no health hazards involved, think again.

The Samoa Observer saw four youths wrestling over a pile of medical bandages and used dressing, unaware of what germs and unthinkable diseases these articles contained.

Another youth was seen sampling what appeared to be discarded doughnuts while yet another was slurping away at a Zap soda still with the straw intact.

Upon questioning, the youths pointed out that they were from the nearby village of Vaitele Uta and this was their daily pastime.

"I have not been to school for three years now and this is where I spend my days," said one youngster.

Vaitele Uta is one of the areas recently identified by a Statistics official as being highly congested, in dire need of basic services, and becoming a hive of criminal activity.

Others, we noticed, are a bit apprehensive and refused to talk to us or have their photos taken.

"Don’t take our photos; we’re not animals," barked an old woman as she rummaged through a pile of discarded canned food surrounded by a pack of stray beasts.

"Where are you from again?" asked another.

Told that we were media people, "We don’t like newspapers," he growled back.

As we made our way back to the front gate, the friendly chap there greeted us again.

"How did you find it? Something has to be done about those people. They are a real problem."

Perhaps that is a question for his boss and the policy makers, who believe there is no poverty in this country.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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