Monday, September 12, 2005

Unicef distributing portable kits to check drinking water quality

UNICEF is to distribute portable kits to check drinking water quality in the Maldives, Minivan News has reported.

Speaking to Minivan News earlier today, Unicef’s water and sanitation expert, Dan Martin, said water quality problems remain a concern in the Maldives, particularly since the Tsunami struck.

“The initial impact of the Tsunami was to damage the traditional rainwater-harvesting tanks people use to collect water” he said. Freshwater available underground was also made unfit to drink because of the intrusion of salty seawater during the Tsunami, although concerns about the quality of this water were there even before the wave struck, said Martin.

Although water and sanitation provision in Male’ is among some of South Asia’s finest, this cannot be said of the outer islands where sanitation coverage is provided to a mere 42% of the population according to the United Nations. In island schools, there are often just one or two toilets for 200-300 children. This has a negative impact on attendance levels said Martin, particularly among girls.

Knowledge about washing hands with soap after going to the toilet – one of the most effective ways to prevent child illnesses - is also very low in the outer atolls. “There is an urgent need to improve that” Martin said.

The Red Cross is reportedly providing 15,000 rainwater harvesting tanks to households across the country. This should provide half the population with safe drinking water. Unicef said that they are considering providing the extra 17,000 tanks that would ensure coverage of the entire population.


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