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Health threats increase as conditions worsen

By Monika Singh SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 11, 2010) - SANITATION in the many informal settlements in Suva have worsened over the decade with increased threat of diseases, chronic infections and skin disorders.

This was revealed by a University of the South Pacific academic, Dr Edward Anderson.

Dr Anderson, who is a lecturer at the USP Marine Studies department, said every year between March and April marine pollution students survey the Suva area for pollution.

He said students tested the rivers and creeks near settlements and industrial areas for faecal coliform and salinity.

Faecal coliform is bacteria found in human faeces and it is a water pollutant which could cause diseases in humans who come into contact with the contaminated water.

Dr Anderson expressed concern on the effects of the increasing number of squatter settlements on the environment and most importantly to the health of people in the settlements.

He said the study carried at Wailea settlement in Vatuwaqa showed the lack of proper sanitation facilities led to the increase in the risk of serious diseases, chronic infections and skin disorders.

He said Wailea was an informal settlement with no proper sewerage and limited garbage disposal, which contributed to spread of diseases.

He said USP Marine Studies students had been conducting their surveys in the informal sectors since 1994 and it was sad to see that the condition had not improved over the years.

Dr Anderson said the creek which ran across Wailea settlement was polluted with faeces and other household garbage and the polluted water was harmful to the people.

He said the polluted water could result in sores and chronic infections among children in informal settlements.

He said one possible reason for the high faecal content of the creek in Wailea could be the failure of the Raiwaqa sewerage pump.

He urged the authorities to survey the area and try to find a solution to the problem.

"The students can only carry out their surveys and present their report but the problem is too big for us to solve on our own," he said.

Ministry of Health spokesman Iliesa Tora said squatter settlements had become an issue of discussions and that needed to be looked at.

"I think that it is very important that the report is made available to stakeholders like the Suva City Council, Health and Environment. The focal point in this regard is the SCC Health Department. They will need to look at the report and see what it says," he said.

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