HRCM repeats calls for clean water at special needs centre

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has asked the government to address problems in the water and sewerage system Guraidhoo’s Centre for People with Special Needs.

The directive calls upon the ministry to immediately introduce temporary facilities which will provide clean water for basic needs, and requests detailed plans for dealing with the facility’s water and sewerage problems by October 19.

The centre, in Kaafu atoll, is the only facility for Maldivians suffering from mental disabilities and currently falls under the remit of the Ministry of Law and Gender.

The commission states that the government has failed to take action despite repeated appeals from the HRCM over the past 5 years.

Today’s directive was released based on observations made by a team from the commission which visited the centre on September 16.

The HRCM revealed in a statement that tests conducted on the water used for sanitation purposes in the centre showed a high presence of e-coli bacteria, in contravention of World Health Organisation (WHO) approved standards.

Doctors who joined the observation team suggested that using the water could lead to diarrhoea, skin diseases, and urine infections among other ailments.

The statement further noted that medical records from the centre showed a large number of patients were already suffering from skin diseases.

The HRCM stated that it had been repeatedly calling on the government to solve the issues regarding the water supply of since 2009. A report released that year stated that approximately MVR9,000 (US$583) was spent each week on purchasing bottled water for drinking purposes alone.

While Tuesday’s statement calls on the government to provide clean drinking water, it does not specify whether the centre was continuing to supply mineral water to residents.

The commission also conducted tests on the water in 2011, after complaints it had a foul smell. Three of four samples taken from the centre proved to be below WHO approval standards.

Minister of State for Law and Gender Dr Hala Hameed was not responding to calls at the time of press, while an official of the Ministry of Law and Gender who requested to be unnamed declined from commenting on the matter.

The Ministry of Law and Gender has the mandate to oversee all government functions related to families, children, women, people with special needs, and human rights.

The Malé Water and Sewerage Company last year signed an agreement with Kandooma resort to provide a 30 tonne water plant to nearby Guraidhoo as part of a MVR1.5 million (US$97,600) investment.