The Comoro Islands are an archipelago of four islands and several islets located in the western Indian Ocean about ten to twelve degrees south of the Equator and less than 200 miles off the East African coast. They lie approximately halfway between the island of Madagascar and northern Mozambique at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. The archipelago is the result of volcanic action along a fissure in the seabed running west-northwest to east-southeast. The total area of the four islands is 785 square miles (2,034 square kilometers). see the map here
The four major islands are Ngazidja, Mwali, Nzwani, and Mayotte (Maore). Ngazidja is the largest and the youngest island in the archipelago. It is the most westerly of the islands, lying 188 miles from Mozambique. Ngazidja has an active volcano that rises to a height of 7,746 feet (2,361 meters) above sea level. Mwali, 28 miles south-southeast of Ngazidja, is the smallest of the islands with a central mountain range that rises 2,556 feet (790 meters) above sea level. Nzwani lies about twenty-five miles easterly of Mwali, has a central peak that rises 5,072 feet (1,575 meters) above sea level. It also has several swift running streams that cascade down to long, sandy beaches. Forty-four miles to the southeast of Nzwani is Mayotte (Maore), the oldest of the islands. It is almost surrounded by a barrier reef and is fairly flat with slow meandering streams and mangrove swamps.
The total population of the Comoro Islands is estimated to be over 600,000 people today. Over 27% live in urban areas. A 1980 estimate of the average density was 182.5 persons per square kilometer, varying between 65.5 persons per square kilometer in Mwali and 349.1 persons per square kilometer in Nzwani. Today the densities are much higher.
In recent decades the population was increased by the forced evacuation of Comorians from Madagascar and Zanzibar. These peoples resettled in the Comoros adding to an already difficult situation. Earlier, changes in politics in the area had reduced the opportunities for Comorian men to go abroad; one means that had effectively eased population pressures. There still are a number of Comorians living abroad. Comorians can be found living in many parts of the world but most of the emigrants are in Europe or in Kenya and Zanzibar along the East African coast. There are an estimated 60,000 Comorians or people of Comorian descent living in France today.
The present population increase is an estimated 3.5% per year with an annual birth rate of 47 births per 1,000 and an annual death rate of 12 deaths per 1,000 population. The most recent estimate of the total fertility rate is 6.8 children born per woman. Life expectancy at birth is 54 years for males and 59 years for females. The inhabitants are a blend of various peoples of the Indian Ocean littoral. African, Malagasy, and Arabic features are clearly evident. Maritime commerce before entry of Europeans into the Indian Ocean brought Comorians into contact with peoples from southern Africa to southeast Asia. Since the end of the fifteenth century European influence has also impacted upon Comorian life.