This case study looks at how anthropogenic environmental change
and human behavior at numerous scales increases the risk of typhoid fever and the transmission of other waterborne diseases on the Pacific island nation of Fiji. This includes industrial activities such as upstream deforestation and cattle-farming, poor sanitation standards in riverside villages, and poor household practices around water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). The setting for this case study is rural communities on a small island nation, a setting where people are particularly dependent on healthy river catchments for their water, food, and livelihood needs.
Further, customary land tenure and vanua (the ways in which people identify with the land and sea) are deeply important in Fijian culture. Erosion of these customary rights can have a negative effect on natural resource management and subsequently increase the spread of disease.
In addition to better acknowledging customary rights, reducing disease transmission requires interventions at household, village, river basin, and national levels, and the involvement of community members and policymakers alike. To that end, the Watershed Interventions for Systems Health (WISH) project, led by a multidisciplinary team of academic researchers, NGO staff, and government officials, is one example of ongoing work to improve and restore river catchment health in Fiji.
This case study is based on interviews conducted in Suva, Nadi, Nabukavesi, and Naqarawai, Fiji, in October and November 2018.