Children run to fetch water in the township of Boitumelong in Bloemhof in North West on Thursday, 29 May 2014. North West health department spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said Bloemhof's water source had been contaminated. "The municipality also stopped water distribution to the community as it was clear the water was the source of contamination and that the water circulating was not safe," he said. He said water tankers had been sent to the area. Resident Kgomotso Moalusi said some people were not getting water from the tanks. "The water tanks are selective. They give water to their own people. They started giving water to people late last night in five litre containers." Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Rustenburg - A recent diarrhoea outbreak in Bloemhof, North West, that led to the deaths of three babies is being probed, the SA Human Rights Commission said on Friday.

“People in Bloemhof and many other areas are entitled to the right to clean drinking water that is enshrined in our Constitution and in our laws,” it said in a statement.

The organisation recently released a report on sanitation, stating it was unacceptable that apartheid-era spatial geography still negatively affected black, poor and working class people 20 years into democracy.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Friday contaminated water was the probable cause of the Bloemhof diarrhoea outbreak.

“Considering the nature of the diarrhoea disease, the specific types of E. coli and viruses detected in ill persons, and the extent of the outbreak in the affected community, contaminated drinking water is the likely source of the outbreak,” it said in a statement.

Three children in the area, aged under two years old, have died from diarrhoea, complicated by dehydration.

Since May 25, over 500 cases of people suffering from diarrhoea have been recorded at health care facilities in Bloemhof.

The NICD ruled out cholera as the cause of the outbreak.

“E. coli bacteria were identified in a number of stool samples tested at Tshepong National Health Laboratory Services, and have been confirmed at the NICD Centre for Enteric Diseases as specific types of E. coli that can cause diarrhoea.”

Various diarrhoea-causing viruses were also identified in the samples.

The municipality has since drained the entire water system and sanitised it.

The NICD said the number of cases of diarrhoea had declined but there were still more cases reported than usual. This indicated that the outbreak was not yet over.

Residents were advised to make their drinking water safe by boiling it for one minute. Alternatively, one teaspoon of household bleach could be added to 20 litres of water to ensure it was potable.

Earlier on Friday, North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo's spokesman Sam Mokaila confirmed that Lekwa-Teemane municipal manager Andrew Makwapane had resigned amid the water contamination crisis.

Makwapane was suspended on Monday after a meeting by provincial and municipal leaders.