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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
The southern-African cholera epidemic, which started at the border-straddling riverine system of Limpopo province in November at the start of the rainy season -- when tons of human feces from millions of desperate refugees washed into the water system -- is still marching relentlessly across the South African landscape. And things are going to get a lot worse with the next rainy season.
At least three countries are affected: Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Important tourist destinations such as the Kruger national park in Limpopo, and the country's popular beaches along the Indian-ocean of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal -- Durban, Port St Johns and Port Elizabeth/East London -- are now all facing the threat of endemic cholera.
Even Cape Town, which has never had cholera at all, suddenly got cholera cases.
Human Rights Watch (see picture) already started warning in May last year that the total lack of access to sanitation and clean water for the millions of Zimbabwe refugees flooding into Musina were causing a very dangerous health situation for the entire tri-country region.
And this year, they warn that the cholera epidemic will spread even more, unless the political crisis in Zimbabwe can be resolved. This year's cholera epidemic has ‘officially’ killed 2,000 Zimbabwans and sickened 39,000. Over 5 million Zimbabweans also face severe food shortages and are dependent on international aid. They basically live alongside all the South African river systems in the bushes. There are no refugee camps: the South African government refuses to have any installed by the UN.
Read the report here http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/01/21/crisis-without-limits
South Africa cannot cope without refugee camps:
However this problem can’t only be blamed on Zimbabwe: solving the political crisis there will not address the epidemic which is now becoming endemic cholera throughout South Africa. It was able to also spread so rapidly throughout South Africa because of the country's own collapsing health-care and water-reticulation systems. These are overburdened and collapsing not only because of the huge flood of refugees from Zimbabwe, but mainly because of South Africa’s politics-motivated decision to fire more than 80% of all its water-engineers at municipalities countrywide: only because these quaified people were white.
Thus the SA water reticulation plants were already collapsing – and a crisis situation was created with the sudden arrival of so many Zimbabwean refugees: without refugee camps to flee to, these milions of refugees from Zimbabwe basically live anywhere they can put down their head and have some access to water in South Africa however filthy: entire clans live scattered along all the rivers and dams without any access to toilets, showers, food and clean water, their fecal waste is simply being deposited every day along and inside the river systems and every time it rains, the fecal waste in the bushes washes down into the rivers – their only source of clean drinking water.
Not unsurprisingly therefore, that just as the rains started on November 18 2008, within days some 455 South Africans were already infected with cholera and the death toll stood at seven - officially. Hundreds of desperately ill Zimbabweans were being rushed across the border at Musina to get clean water and get their desperately ill relatives rehydrated to save their lives. Nobody was keeping count of the death toll and the number of cholera infections among Zimbawsean refugees, who have no place to flee to.
Unofficially the death toll of course is much higher, but it’s politically-incorrect to say so.
Who's keeping count of these millions of displaced refugees without UN supervision inside camps? South Africa's policy is however firmly set against creating refugee camps where health conditions conditions could be kept under control and record-keeping would be more accurate. South Africa supports the Mugabe regime and it would embarrass their struggle buddy if the true extent of the famine and the cholera epidemic were to be published.
Musina health dept overtaxed by a mere 23 patients from Madimbo:
And as the rainy season now is nearly ended in this region, the cholera epidemic is also declining in intensity. Health officials are very proud of themselves for the declining number of cases, claiming that it's all due to their own efforts.But some incidents show that the SA health system was so overburdened in the Musina area that just one rush of 23 people who had fallen ill at the village of Madimbo, could not be accommodated and caused a mass panic.Madimbo is a popular illegal crossing point for Zimbabweans. And there, twenty-three people all came down with cholera at the same time after drinking river water and eating fish from the cholera-infested river. Just these few extra patients caused an extraordinary panic among health officials. http://www.ewn.co.za/articleprog.aspx?id=1161
Now the epidemic is dying down, together with the end of the rainy season - and South African officials in some provinces already are patting themselves on the back for having done such a good job of 'controlling' it.
That cholera will be back and be much worse next rainy season:
But they didn't control it at all: next season, just after the first rains starts washing down the tons of excrement which are still being deposited at squatter camps along all the waterways, this cholera epidemic will return, and it will be much, much worse - unless all these afflicted communities start cleaning up their water-purification act, and fast.
Twenty-two of Durban's world-famous beaches and ocean-water now are so filthy, that they have lost their Blue Flag clean-beach designations from international tourist associations.
The epidemic is still reaching its peak In Mpumalanga at Bushbuckridge, where 350 cases have been 'officially confirmed in laboratories'. Officials here say they are still 'bracing themselves for the worst,' reports Radio 702. Highly-qualified medical staffers are being pulled off their regular hospital posts to attend to jobs which could just as easily be carried out by junior emergency personnel, namely rehydrating patients in emergency tents outside Matikwane Hospital. And strangely jarring measures were also taken here which indicate a severe lack of medical knowledge: for instance children's wards were 'cleared in fear of the disease spreading', said the health department's Mpho Gabashane.
The Limpopo province has meanwhile, also been juggling with the official health statistics to prove that they have 'everything under control', with claims that 'only' ten people have actually died of it.
Fifteen recent cholera deaths in one village were 'not tested' and thus the authorities refuse to include these in their statistics… causing outrage against the local ANC-mayor who, rather foolishly, tried to attend the mass funeral of these unfortunate victims of ineptitude. His car was stoned by angry funeral-goers and he had to depart in a hurry to save his life.
Perfectly safe for tourists…
These officials in this region also are trying hard to keep the tourist industry churning with claims that it is 'perfectly safe for travellers to vacation there: the cross border cholera outbreak has not affected the whole province."They have lodged what they describe as 'awareness campaigns' and claim that these are 'successful'.
Basically it's all about teaching people to wash their hands more often after using the toilet and before preparing food - things which should be routinely taught by parents at home and by schools from the kindergarden level. Alas, all this hand-washing and emphasis on 'education' won't help one iota if people don't clean themselves with purified, clean water.
And herein lies the onion: for without decent water-purification plants which are run by qualified water-engineers who can identify problems and solve them before they actually occur, this problem is just going to get worse and worse all across the country.
In Limpopo province, hundreds of cholera cases were reported in the province since November and infection of cholera was found in the Limpopo River and the riverine systems of the Kruger Park -- yet Limpopo Health Department’s Phuti Seloba was patting himself on the back with claims that they are ‘seeing a decline in the number of reported cases.” Of course they are: the rainy season is coming to an end.
Even regions with a better health-care and water-reticulation infrastructures such as the Western Cape - where cholera has never been identified before in its entire history - now report cholera cases. Western Cape provincial health MEC Marius Fransman says thus far, seven people, including a baby, have been diagnosed with the deadly disease. Of course South African health officials such as Fransman are constantly blaming their neighbour Zimbabwe for the outbreak.
Water-purification plants collapsing due to black-economic empowerment laws:
However the real culprit is the steady collapse of South Africa's own water-purification plants countrywide. They have been overburdened by the massive influx of more than 5-million migrants from the rest of Africa, who have set up squatter camps along all the country's waterways.
The collapse of the water-reticulation plants is in turn caused by the ANC-regime's racist hiring programme, its so-called black-economic-empowerment laws, through which many thousands of white municipal water-engineers were fired and replaced with unqualified ANC-cronies over the past few years.
Health officials in six of the country's seven provinces now have to cope with a steady stream of cholera patients who require emergency rehydration to save them from dying of cholera.Meanwhile the underlying problem, the collapsing water-purification infrastructure, is being ignored. Just don’t talk about it, and perhaps the problem will go away, that’s the motto.
In the Western Cape, health officials have instead launched a 'health education programme' in the squatter camps and 'underdeveloped' areas such as Khayelitsha and Ravensmead, where, says Fransman, 'water and sanitation issues are far more pressing.'http://www.ewn.co.za/articleprog.aspx?id=4010
January 26 2009 – BLOEMHOF, South Africa. A man who had threatened to kill three policemen with a deadly cobra snake has been arrested in Bloemhof, in North West province. The African combra is the deadliest cobra in the world. Its bite is extremely toxic and causes a very quick and painless death.
Police constable A. Smit said police weren't going to take any chances when they saw the angry man, identified only as 'Bonnie', holding a burlap bag which was seen to move ominously. Bonnie had shown up at a policeman's house in the township of Tshidilamolomo, threatening to kill him and several other colleagues.
It's not exactly clear why he ‘d wanted to do this -- however people took him very seriously indeed. Smit said police received an alert and when they rushed to the colleague’s house, Bonnie was still standing there with that ominous bag. Even more scary was that when he saw the cops arrive, he’d put his hand inside the bag with the snake in it, taken out a knife and threatened the cops with it. The tension mounted, until one cop fired a warning shot up into the roof – at which point the man an off to hide in a bedroom - still clutching the bag with his precious snake. He was approached v e r y s l o w l y at gunpoint and the bag and knife taken away from him. Bonnie's appearing in court soon. However, the scariest part of this story is that nobody knows what has happened to the snake... http://www.sapsjournalonline.gov.za/dynamic/journal_dynamic.aspx?pageid=414&jid=13411
Mystery arms cache unearthed at Bloemhof, Boschpan smallholding
The same police station crew also still has another puzzling case to solve they'd like the public's help with, constable Smit says. They 've discovered a deeply mysterious arms cache - a hand grenade, trip wire, rocket flares, shotgun rounds -- at a deserted Boschpan smallholding in the Bloemhof district.
And they have no-one to question about it: the previous owner has emigrated to New Zealand, and the current owner lives in Makwassie in the Cape.Anybody who could tell the police more about this arms cache, is asked to contact Constable A. Smit Tel 018 299 7269