“We will die of thirst”: the French island is running out of drinking water

The French island of Mayotte is running out of drinking water amid a crisis caused by one of the worst droughts in its history.

For four months, approximately 310,000 people living in France were without or without water in their homes.

The island, in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, has only two water reservoirs, both of which have reached “critical levels of depletion”.

One is at seven percent capacity and the other at six percent. With very little rain on the cards and chronic poor water management, reservoirs are in danger of drying up completely.

Mayotte residents' access to running water has been reduced to about 18 hours, which only happens every few days. Many locals say that the water they get during this period is contaminated and not drinkable.

Schools have closed or reduced hours because they don't have enough water for students, and some residents said they had to miss work to find water for their families.

The hashtag ‘MayotteASoif', or ‘Mayotte is thirsty', is trending on social media as locals share pictures of the murky liquid pouring from their taps.

Estelle Youssoufa, Member of Parliament for the First Constituency of Mayotte, shared on X photos of residents, including what appeared to be children of primary school age, cleaning rubbish from a dried-up river to improve its circulation.

Another user shared a picture of several inches of greenish-brown water as she bathed her son, writing that the authorities “dare you to tell she's a drinker.”

A third showed a crowd of parents gathering to raise funds for a water storage tank so their children could attend school more often than once a week.

Resident and mother of two Racha Musdikudine shared the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen when she turns on the kitchen faucet.

“Maybe I won't get any water at all,” he told her CNN.

“Maybe 30 minutes to get water. Maybe the water will come only after an hour of waiting.”

Although it is 8,000 kilometers from mainland France, Mayotte is no less French than the cities of Paris or Nice. In 2011, the island was officially recognized as a department of France, giving it the same legal status as the 96 departments on the mainland.

This means that the water crisis is the responsibility of the French government. In September, he sent 600,000 liters of bottled water, as well as soldiers and civil servants to help with distribution.

But many residents of Mayotte still feel left out.

27-year-old Duainda Attuman says that such conditions would be unimaginable if they were happening on the French mainland.

“Government seems to be absent from our daily suffering,” he told CNN.

“When we don't have water, what are we really going to do?” We will die of thirst.”

The health risks associated with limiting water supplies are far-reaching.

Mayotte has seen an increase in cases of gastroenteritis, a disease that causes swelling of the stomach and intestines, diarrhea and vomiting.

Soumet Abbas, president of the Mayotte Hospital Medical Committee, said the gastroenteritis outbreak was caused by both contaminated water and poor hygiene standards as residents struggled to ration available water.