UNICEF helps villagers in Comoros to protect water from volcanic eruptions

More than 1500 reservoirs were contaminated

10 October 2006 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with more than 100 villages on the Indian Ocean island of Grand Comore to ensure continued access to safe, clean water following yet another eruption of a notoriously active volcano.

Mount Karthala’s recent eruptions – two in the last year and a half – have polluted the fragile water source on the island, the largest in the Comoros archipelago between Mozambique and Madagascar, and left it covered in debris.

Grand Comore has no significant rivers or streams so a large portion of the population depends on rainwater gathered in large cisterns or tanks. After the eruptions, the residents’ water became clogged with ash. As a short-term solution, UNICEF trucked in millions of litres of fresh drinking water for more than 150,000 people.

But the main goal is to make sure the invaluable cisterns will be protected from future eruptions. More than 1,500 cisterns have already been covered with metal sheds provided by UNICEF, ensuring a lasting supply of clean, safe water.

The villagers’ health has improved since the cisterns were covered. There are fewer cases of diarrhoea, especially amongst children. The number of malaria cases is also expected to drop, now that the water is protected from mosquitoes.

UNICEF is currently working to educate people about the importance of staying healthy by protecting their water sources. UNICEF Assistant Operations Officer Bernadette Nyiratunga says villagers responded to the crisis by working closely with UNICEF and its partners, and doing what they could to help one another.

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