In Chiconi, about thirty people are waiting to benefit from the precious packs: the distribution of bottled water to the entire population of Mayotte started on Monday to help the inhabitants of the archipelago cope with an exceptional drought.
After reserving it for the most vulnerable, the authorities announced the extension of the supply of bottled water to the entire population of France's 101st department, starting November 20. Some 330,000 litres of water will be distributed every day, said the Minister Delegate in charge of the Overseas Territories, Philippe Vigier, during a visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago in early November.
In the west of the main island, on this Monday morning, about thirty people are waiting to register with the agents of the communal social action center (CCAS) of Chiconi and get their free packs. "It's a help we can't miss," said Amina Abdallah, who was standing in line in a city square facing the bay.
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"We can't drink tap water anymore: we had diarrhoea, vomiting... For several weeks now, we had to buy bottled water, at about 8 euros a pack. But it weighs heavily financially," said the woman, who returned to Mayotte in September to take care of her mother after spending 17 years in Brittany. But "I haven't found a job here... ", confides the Mahoraise.
After an hour and a half of patience, the mother of three finally picks up five packs for her household. One per person, for one week. At the square, two containers filled with 15,000 bottles arrived early in the morning. "As of last week, we have been anticipating registrations for the CCAS to avoid too long queues," said the mayor's chief of staff, Djamael Djalalaine. A step that Amina Abdallah had made but which did not allow her to escape the queue.
In front of her, four agents from the communal centre take the proofs of address and identity documents of all the members of the household. Alongside them, four young people from the Adapted Military Service Regiment (RSMA) came to help. "We help with handling, we unload containers," says the section head, requesting anonymity. But if the numbers aren't enough, "we can bring in a team of reservists as reinforcements," explains Djamael Djalalaine, who also relies on the support of volunteers.
Distributed over several days
In total, Mayotte welcomed 150 firefighters and civil security soldiers to ensure distribution to the entire population. Each municipality has at least one distribution point. In Grand-Mamoudzou, residents can go to seven sites, depending on the sector. In Chiconi, to streamline distributions, the town hall has chosen to bring in the 13,500 inhabitants over several days.
"The distributions will take place all week, until Saturday, to allow those who work to come. We accept everyone, without distinction," says Djamael Djalalaine, who specifies that his services will also distribute bottles at home to people "who are very vulnerable, isolated and unable to move".
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By 10:00 a.m. on Monday, four hundred people had already come to pick up their bottles in Chiconi. "When one of the containers is empty, we will bring in a second one. And a third should arrive on site tomorrow to store the empty bottles, which will go back to mainland France to be recycled," says the head of the town hall. Starting next week, residents will have to bring back their empty containers to pick up new bottles.
For Melissa Dumand, however, these distributions come "a little late". "For weeks or even months, there have been serious doubts about the drinkability of tap water. For families, it's very burdensome. Water packs are expensive and they are not always available in the shops," says the local resident. Amina Abdallah, for her part, wonders "how it will hold". "Until when will we be allowed the bottles? Bringing in the military, distributing so much water for free, it comes at a cost. And we know that nothing is free, it will be picked up somewhere... »