Desperation knows no boundaries

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The front-page story titled “No poverty in Samoa? Check out the children at Tafaigata landfill” is another sad reminder about the chilling reality for some of the poorest people in this country today.

While the existence of poverty, especially when it comes to food, will always be a debatable topic in Samoa, the fact that young children are scavenging at the dumpster is such a haunting truth that should make all leaders of this country very, very uncomfortable. 

We say this because as they drive around in their pimped–up expensive rides with the air-condition on full blast being paid for by taxpayers, someone should remind them that in Samoa today, not only are there kids scouring the rubbish for food, there are many people around the country who still do not have access to basic utilities like water and electricity. In 2017.

And this ugly reality is being reflected in the other areas of life in Samoa today. It’s fair to say the gruesome violence – with some leading to death – reported over recent months is quite frightening. Then there are the alarming figures of cases of theft, burglaries, theft as a servant and other petty crimes which are sending shivers down the spine. 

No one knows for sure why these things are happening. But there has got to be a reason for this sudden upsurge of crime emerging during this time in this country. 

The way we see it, our leaders need to wake up and pay attention. As long as the government continues to calmly ignore everyone’s concerns about hardship, poverty and crimes as idiotic nonsense, it’s only going to get worse.

Where do we start?

Well try listening and acting upon concerns expressed by good meaning people like Vaitele Fou resident, Nanai Tailealo Motumotu, who raised the issue about the children at the Tafaigata dump in yesterday’s Samoa Observer.

“Whenever trucks discharge waste at the site, these children rush to collect plastics, metals and other things that can still be used and many of them are as young as six,” he said. “These poor souls treat the place as their own and it’s a really sad scene for myself as a father.”

What’s even more disheartening for Nanai is that many of the children scour the place for food. They look for expired food products being dumped there and then they take it with them to their homes. 

Obviously, these are not just a bunch of kids looking for food. They have been handed the responsibility of looking after their families and the Tafaigata landfill is their source of sustenance. Which is a real tragedy.

Now yesterday, Nanai was calling on the government to do something to stop children from entering the place.

“I know these children are helping their parents out because they are young. But something that the government should think about is a way to stop them from accessing this place.”

Nanai added many of these children come from families who are desperate.

“Think about how our people are now hoarding rubbish to earn a living. What will happen to them in the next ten years? Are we expecting these numbers to decrease? The answer is no!”

Nanai added he couldn’t fathom the risk these children are exposed to in terms of health.

“And when they find food and expired goods, imagine how many other people in their families are exposed?” 

Lastly, Nanai said the Ministry responsible for the landfill should be held accountable.

Well that’s a tough one for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, isn’t it? We agree that they should stop children from entering the landfill, but this issue is much bigger than just getting a secured fence at the landfill.

We are talking about families who send their children up there because they are desperate. We are talking about some of the poorest people in Samoa who perhaps feel this is the only way they can get by.

The truth is the M.N.R.E can put a fence there and have security officers surround the place 24/7 but that is not going to solve the problem. Desperation knows no boundaries. These people will always find a way to sneak in there.

What they need is a real hand to help them out of their desperation. These children need opportunities like education while the young adults should be offered proper jobs so they don’t have to resort  to the landfill for a living.

And that is not the role for M.N.R.E. This is a role for all government leaders, starting from the very top with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

It’s time for them to stop paying lip service to people development and ignoring the cry of hardship from ordinary people. 

The truth is; if these people were not desperate, they would not be scavenging at the Tafaigata landfill. What do you think?

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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