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‘We have bigger concerns’

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“We can’t even afford to lose a drop of water. Imagine if you have to wash your hands and throw it out while it still seems clean”

MANY residents of informal settlements said yesterday that they have greater concerns than the coronavirus and that they will “take the virus as it comes” and hope that they do not get infected

Residents of Thompson Shacks in Greenpoint pointed out that they do not have enough clean running water nor can they afford to buy hand sanitiser to keep their hands clean.

In response to whether they are familiar with the precautionary measures of keeping their hands clean through washing with water and soap, one of the residents, Ricardo Seep, said: “with what water.”

“We can’t even afford to lose a drop of water. Imagine if you have to wash your hands and throw it out while it still seems clean,” said Seep.

Thompson Shacks consist of about 500 households with only two water taps and seven mobile toilets for the entire community.

According to the residents, it is already an effort to go and fetch water with buckets for their households.

A couple, the Mabijas, live with their 10-year-old granddaughter next to a filthy canal that was supposed to be the water drainage system for the area.

The canal is currently used as a toilet and a dumping site.

The family said that they can only watch as people pass their shack with buckets of faeces to dump into the canal.

Besides the stench from the canal, the family also has to live with their yard and home being flooded with the filthy water when it rains.

Under these living conditions, the issue of hygiene is a big problem for the family.

They feel that they are already at risk of disease as they are exposed to the germs from the canal.

“We accept the virus warning from the government but we cannot stretch ourselves beyond this extent. You remind us of hygiene and having to wash our hands often and clearly do not know what filth we are exposed to. Of course our granddaughter tries her best to remind us of hygiene but she also forgets sometimes,” said Jolene Mabija.

“We are scared, but in this regard we will not blame anyone who gets infected because it is not by choice or through negligence.”

A Lerato Park resident said that the community suffered from similar problems.

“We are using a bucket system and the buckets are sometimes not collected. We do not have enough taps to keep enough water to wash our hands as often as expected,” said Sophie Maditsi.

The residents shrugged their shoulders in regards to a tweet from the Northern Cape Department of Health that promised that it would take extra precautionary measures for people living in informal settlements with regards to self-isolation should the coronavirus hit the Province. They demanded more details.

Department of Health spokesperson Lebogang Majaha promised that Premier Zamani Saul will soon map the way forward for the Province in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Following the preliminary announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa we are busy consolidating all information in trying to control this situation for contingency in cases of overflow,” said Majaha.