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There is no water on the paradise island. “I have to choose between finding water for my family and going to work

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The island of Mayotte is facing an unprecedented water crisis. This French department and region located on the east coast of Africa, between Mozambique and Madagascar, has been hit by drought. According to experts, it is a consequence of the climate crisis caused by human activity.

Mayotte, inhabited by over 300,000 people, is a French department located in the Indian Ocean, and is struggling with the worst drought since 1997. Water levels in two reservoirs on the island have reached “critical levels.” One of them is seven percent full, the other only six percent. They are on the verge of drying out. The situation forced the authorities to make drastic cuts in the supply of this natural raw material. Residents only have access to water for about 18 hours and every few days. Many say that what little water they have is often contaminated and undrinkable.

When Racha Mousdikoudine, a resident of Mayotte, opens the tap in her kitchen, she doesn’t know what will happen. – The water may not flow at all or it will flow for about 30 minutes – she said in an interview with the American station CNN. – It may also appear only after many hours of waiting – she added.

Water bottles have become a rare and expensive commodity on supermarket shelves on the island.

There is no water on the island, children cannot brush their teeth

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The French government responded to the water crisis in September by sending 600,000 liters of bottled water to the island for the most needy residents. He also delegated soldiers and government officials to help distribute it. The government has also suspended the need to pay water bills for all residents of this overseas region.

However, many Mayotte residents feel abandoned by the island’s management. Douainda Attoumani, 27, is afraid of what the future may bring. He lives in a household of 10 with his parents, sister, four brothers and two cousins. “Every day is more difficult than the previous one,” she told CNN. – The authorities seem absent from our daily suffering. When we don’t have water, what exactly are we supposed to do? We will die of thirst, she added.

“I am French, but without any autonomy because I have no water,” Attoumani noted. – I have to choose between finding water for my family and going to work. In a country like France, making this kind of decision is unimaginable, she added.

Simple tasks like brushing teeth or pouring water into glasses for her daughters, ages 7 and 9, became such a huge challenge. She and her husband decided to send the children to their grandmother in the French territory of Reunion, about a two-hour flight from Mayotte. The decision was extremely difficult. – I reached the point where I could no longer keep my children safe. Cook them appropriate meals and take care of their hygiene, said the 27-year-old.

Contaminated water and a gastroenteritis epidemic

Water on the island is rare. But when it finally starts flowing from the taps, it is often contaminated. The Regional Health Authority (ARS) in Mayotte has identified several cases of water contamination with dangerous bacteria.

Estelle Youssouffa, a member of the French National Assembly, told CNN that the reason authorities are able to declare the water safe to drink is because they only carry out tests after the water flow has been interrupted for several hours. ARS reported that tests are conducted 12 hours after the water is cut off.

Both Mousdikoudine and Attoumani said that when the water comes back after being cut off, it is dirty. It begins to flow clear only after a few hours. However, most of the island’s inhabitants cannot give it up during this time because it is rationed.

According to Dr. Soumet Abasse, chairman of the medical committee of Mayotte Hospital, there is an epidemic of digestive diseases on the island.

– Outbreaks of gastroenteritis are not unusual in the summer months, but this one lasts all autumn, the doctor said. – Some cases were very difficult and many of them ended up in the intensive care unit – he added.

The doctor noted that the cause of the epidemic is both contaminated water and lower hygiene standards resulting from less access to water. – People do not wash their hands often, do not wash themselves, do not flush toilets – he emphasized. “Things can get out of control at any time and we don’t have enough staff to deal with it,” Abasse added.

Estelle Youssouffa said Mayotte’s population has almost doubled since 2007 and infrastructure development has not kept pace with the increase. The hospital is understaffed.

According to the expert, even outside periods of drought, water production in French territory was insufficient, and interruptions in its supply were a regular occurrence long before this year’s exceptionally low rainfall.

Mayotte Juliot.Groendu/AdobeStock

The increased demand for water associated with a larger population, combined with the effects of climate change that are making droughts both more frequent and more severe, have placed enormous pressure on the island’s water resources.

Mayotte was colonized by France in 1841. The island was formally recognized as a French department in 2011, meaning it has the same legal status as the 96 departments that make up mainland France.

Main photo source: Adobe Stock/@gouvernementFR

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