Travelers all around the world know Fiji’s islands as picture-perfect tourist locations. Although translucent aqua waters gleam in the minds of tourists, Fijians do not always picture it as a resource let alone a source of leisure. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji.
10 Facts About Sanitation in Fiji
- Contamination: The University of Otago’s 2018 report on the typhoid problem in the Pacific, and perhaps the first one to investigate modes of transmission of typhoid fever in Fiji, illustrates the severity of the disease in Oceania. Many now think that the area is the global region with the highest incidents of typhoid fever. Typhoid in Fiji most likely spreads through the consumption of contaminated surface water and unwashed produce.
- Open Defecation: People still practice open defecation in some areas of Fiji. Human waste that people would usually flush down toilets ends up in metal drums which are just above the surface of the ground. Toilets can often be too expensive and when they are affordable, flushing them could cause an endemic spread of waterborne diseases like typhoid.
- Toilets: Flushing toilets are not ideal in the areas that are closest to the tide and to hurricanes. When disaster strikes, many do not advise flushing frequently. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “it can overload already weakened electrical systems that power municipal and regional sewer systems.” Fijians’ options are between pressing and pour-flushing and then disposing of the waste in the metal drums.
- Natural Disasters: Among this list of 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji are natural disasters because typhoid outbreaks often follow them due to the practice of open defecation. According to Dani Barrington, a research fellow at the International Water Centre and Monash University, the tidal inflow mixes with industrial waste and waste from the metal drums.
- Typhoid: Certain water-borne illnesses look similar to others, but require different treatment options, further exacerbating typhoid’s impact. It is not uncommon to have patients presenting to the clinic with one disease and sent home to return with another, especially when there are no diagnostic laboratory tests with 100% accuracy to detect either disease. As a result, treatment decisions are usually based on how severe the symptoms are. According to the short version of the Fiji national typhoid fever treatment guideline, medical professionals often treat typhoid with Ciprofloxacin or Cipro for short.
- Vaccines: The NCBI notes that typhoid vaccines are not readily available in endemic regions citing several reasons. Though, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported that the measles vaccine is available free of charge in Fiji’s nearest health facilities, it is unclear whether Fijians have access to typhoid vaccines as well. Fiji seems to echo NCBI’s sentiments that there is a lack of sufficient evidence concerning the vaccine’s effects on certain populations and insufficient data on the disease’s severity. In particular, limited information pertains to the lack of health care access in the poorest communities affected by typhoid.
- Main Exports: A positive aspect of this list of 10 facts about sanitation in Fiji is that water is one of Fiji’s main exports. For anyone who has ever wondered, the brand Fiji Water actually does come from Fiji. This means that Fiji exports much of its clean water to developed countries, yet the country’s poorest citizens do not have access to it. On the other hand, Fiji Water provides its citizens with good jobs. “The product itself is a little silly,” said journalist and “The Big Thirst” author, Charles Fishman, “but what’s interesting is that it benefits Fijians in a way that’s not silly at all.”
- Improvements: Fiji added clean water as a right in the constitution in 2013. UNICEF reported, “The Government’s commitment is also reflected in the National Development Plan targeting 100% access to safe drinking water by 2030 and 70% access to improved sanitation systems by 2021.” A 2011 Columbia University blog post stated that only 47 percent of Fijians had access to clean drinking water and a 2018 article by Fiji Sun reported that 78 percent of Fijians have access to a proper water supply.
- Portable Water Testing Laboratories: In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF assisted Fiji in developing its water quality surveillance system by providing technical guidance. The two organizations donated portable water testing laboratories and kits, Potalab and Potatest respectively. In addition, they trained environmental health officers of the Ministry of Health & Medical Services (MoHMS) in ensuring the equipment met international microbiological and chemical standards of water safety and quality. The equipment will ensure higher levels of accuracy, sensitivity and reliability in routine water quality surveillance. In addition, the equipment cuts down the amount of time needed to test water supplies after disasters.
- A Decrease in Poverty: In Spring 2018, the World Bank reported that poverty rates in Fiji were among the lowest in the Pacific. One should note that one can use different poverty lines to measure different poverty rates. The upper-middle-income class poverty line determined that close to half the population lived in poverty. This is the highest poverty rate in Fiji, however, whereas cases of extreme poverty are lower in contrast.
Though it may seem like Fiji has a long way to go, the country has already come so far. The progress Fijians, nonprofits and the Fijian government have made towards stabilizing Fiji’s economy and providing valuable resources is to thank for it.
– Julia Stephens