Wednesday, April 23, 2008

South Africa's Dirty LIttle Secret

Last week, I wrote about the lack of clean water and toilet facilities in Die Gaatjie, an "unofficial" community of 200 families near the tourist township of Sedgefield, South Africa. A report in today's "The Herald Online" leaves no doubt that the situation in Die Gaatjie is far from unique.

According to the report, 80 babies in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa have died of waterborne diseases in the last few months. The total includes at least 15 victims in Barkly East and 62 in Sterkspruit. Other towns in the Ukhahlamba district municipality may also be affected.

The babies died from "...diarrhea and other complications..." after drinking contaminated tap water. There was a breakdown in the municipal water purification system last October, according to an official health report, but no actions were taken to correct the problem. Nor were residents alerted to the breakdown.

Meanwhile, officials appear to be spending their time playing the Blame Game instead of addressing the emergency. The Municipal Manager claims that the local hospital was dilatory in reporting the deaths; hospital officials reply that they reported the deaths to the municipality after seven babies died of gastroenteritis, but that municipal officials took no action.

And while "health" officials play, babies die.

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