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Comoros - People

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 781,000 (July 2015 estimate). The population growth rate places Comoros among the countries with the highest population growth rates in the world. One of the main demographic characteristics of the Comoros is the extreme youth of its population. More than half (57%) of the Comorian population is under 19 years of age.

Given the large share of land dedicated to agriculture and Comoros’ growing population, habitable land is becoming increasingly crowded. The combination of increasing population pressure on limited land and resources, widespread poverty, and poor job prospects motivates thousands of Comorans each year to attempt to illegally migrate using small fishing boats to the neighboring island of Mayotte, which is a French territory. The majority of legal Comoran migration to France came after Comoros’ independence from France in 1975, with the flow peaking in the mid-1980s.

The Comorans, inhabiting the islands of Grande Comore (also known as Ngazidja), Anjouan, and Moheli, share African-Arab origins. Islam is the dominant religion, and Koranic schools for children reinforce its influence. The most common language is Shikomoro, a Swahili dialect. French and Arabic also are spoken. About 57% of the population is literate.

The Comoros islands were populated by waves of migrants from the Persian Gulf and East Africa, and in later times were enriched by population exchanges with Madagascar. Comoros’ population is a melange of Arabs, Persians, Indonesians, Africans, and Indians, and the much smaller number of Europeans that settled on the islands between the 8th and 19th centuries, when they served as a regional trade hub. The Arab and Persian influence is most evident in the islands’ overwhelmingly Muslim majority – about 98% of Comorans are Sunni Muslims. The country is densely populated, averaging nearly 350 people per square mile, although this varies widely among the islands, with Anjouan being the most densely populated.

Kuwaiti government said in November 2011 that tens of thousands of stateless people in oil-rich Kuwait will be offered citizenship of the impoverished African nation of Comoros to end their decades-old problem. Kuwait's interior ministry assistant undersecretary Major-General Mazen al-Jarrah said that the stateless people, known as biduns, would be granted "special applications for Comoros' economic citizenship". The term "bidoon" literally means "without" in Arabic, but has come to be used for the community of stateless Arabs living in the Gulf state.

Those who accept the offer would be given free residence permits in Kuwait, in addition to a series of incentives like free education and healthcare and the right to employment, Jarrah told Al-Jarida daily. The process would start as soon as an embassy for Comoros is opened in Kuwait. In return for the passports, Comoros will, according to the statement, receive direct investment from the Kuwaiti government, which promised to build schools and charities on the islands.

Poverty stems not just from low income. It is equally the result of lack of access to the different forms of capital, especially human capital. Many children, especially those from poor and least-privileged backgrounds, are deprived of an education and join the ranks of children who never go to, or drop out of, school. The teacher corps, above all at the primary school level, most of whom do not possess the requisite qualifications or the teacher training needed for effectivesupervision of the children.

The economic crisis that has assailed the country since the early 1990s and its dire consequences for public finance have hit the educational system hard, especially the subsectors of education for youth that dropped out of or never went to school, adults, technical education, and professional education At every level of education, the country faces high demand coupled with clearly insufficient resources. Despite government financing to develop the educational system, results are still not up to expectations. Apart from a few private nursery schools mainly found in urban areas, early childhood education is imparted at traditional Koranic schools, in which the contents of the education dispensed as well as the way they operate are entirely beyond the control of the education authorities.

Most establishments, especially secondary schools, are in an advanced state of decay. Facilities are very limited and certain schools, above all at the primary and secondary level, are forced to turn away certain school-age children. Despite progress in recent years, enrollment rates at the primary and secondary levels continue to be low and marked by gender disparity. Delays in paying teachers’ wages and limited budget allocations for primary education are among the key constraints.

Comoros is a source country for children subjected to forced labor and, reportedly, sex trafficking domestically, and women and children are subjected to forced labor in Mayotte; it is possibly a transit and destination country for Malagasy women and girls and a transit country for East African women and girls exploited in domestic service in the Middle East; Comoran children are forced to labor in domestic service, roadside and street vending, baking, fishing, and agriculture; some Comoran students at Koranic schools are exploited for forced agricultural or domestic labor, sometimes being subjected to physical and sexual abuse; Comoros may be particularly vulnerable to transnational trafficking because of inadequate border controls, government corruption, and the presence of international criminal networks.

Malaria is a major public health problem in the Comoros. Despite encouraging progress in the past three years, this disease is the main cause of consultation and hospitalization in our health facilities (31 percent of consultations and 25 percent of registered deaths) and it is still largely responsible for the high levels of absenteeism in schools and at the workplace. Persons of all ages are affected by this disease, but the two most vulnerable groups are children under 5 and pregnant women. Malaria is more common in rural areas (32.6 percent) than in urban areas (25 percent), above all because of less use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in the countryside.

The deterioration in hygiene and sanitation, the population’s scant access to safe water and a healthy environment, the inadequacy of the national epidemiological surveillance system, and the absence of health inspection and oversight services expose the country to outbursts of vector-transmitted diseases, such as arboviroses and yellow fever. Other diseases, such as tuberculosis, leprosy, neonatal tetanus, filariasis, and poliomyelitis, mainly affect the poor.

The health status of individuals is a key indicator of both well-being and the poverty of a population. Poor health conditions, notably those of the poor, are the result the complex relation between health and poverty. The health system is characterized by poor facilities and services in public health centers, and in some of the private health facilities, which are being developed in a haphazard manner and with costly services. This state of affairs means that the population has to make expensive journeys to receive, often very costly, health care, either in private institutions or abroad. With their low incomes, the poor find it difficult to access quality health care and therefore often resort to traditional methods that are sometimes disastrous for their health.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2017 18:27:50 ZULU