6 Oct 2009

Water-borne disease Samoa's biggest health worry

5:00 pm on 6 October 2009

Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says water-borne diseases are its biggest health worry, now that running water has been partly restored.

The ministry's chief executive, Taulealeausumai Laavasa Malua, says the undersea pipeline to the island of Manono - damaged in last week's earthquake and tsunami - has been repaired, and many mainland villages have also had their water restored.

But the sanitation system has broken down and much of the water is

not up to drinking standard. In any case, Mr Malua says, people don't have clean containers to store it in.

More pots are expected to be delivered soon with emergency supplies, which will allow water to be boiled.

It's hoped that tap water will be up to drinking standard by the end of the week.

Dr John Adams, who works at the MedCen hospital in Apia, says he's starting to see patients with water-related health problems, particularly children.

Government support for resettling inland

Meanwhile, the ministry says there will be support for people who want to rebuild homes destroyed in the tsunami, away from the coast.

Mr Malua says those who have lost their homes are not interested in rebuilding along the coast at the moment. In the longer term, however, he believes it will be a challenge to convince them to abandon their links to their land and heritage, and settle inland.

Inland areas already have power, water and some roads, he says, and the government will look for help to develop that infrastructure in the future.

The confirmed death toll from last week's tsunami stands at 177, of whom 136 died in Samoa, 32 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga.

Eight people are still missing in Samoa.