File picture: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
Mbombela - Forced to find ways of surviving, several poor families from the  Msukaligwa area in Mpumalanga have turned to municipal dumping sites to feed their families.

Aware that eating expired food from dumping sites can pose serious health risks - especially for those with compromised immune systems - the desperate families  continue to scavenge, because there simply is no other way to survive.

Sibongile Mavimbela, a mother of five from Wesselton community is HIV positive and knows  that eating food from dump sites is putting her health at further risk.  “What must I do? I am unemployed and raising five kids on my own. This is the one place I get  food to feed my family without being judged. 

"Without these dumping sites my kids will go to  sleep with an empty stomach. I know and understand the dangers of eating rotten food, but I am  doing the best I can. I make sure that before we eat the food must be properly washed and
recooked. Because I am always in this place, I can say that over the past four years I had TB  twice and diarrhea no longer concerns us or scares me off because that is one illness we have  become used to having,” said Mavimbela.

TB - spread mostly through the air when people who have the disease cough, sneeze or spit - is  the most common opportunistic infection among people living with HIV.

Bongiwe Buthelezi, a community health nurse, said:  “Because of poverty, people are forced to put their health at risk eating contaminated food from dumping sites. My advice to them when going through these places is that they must always make sure they use masks to cover their mouth and nose because they might catch diseases. 

"Also, they  must be aware that food found from dumping sites is contaminated and it can pose serious health  risks to people. For example, there are dirty nappies full of faeces and urine so one can easily  catch a disease such as E-coli. Human faeces can cause infections and other infectious diarrhea - dysentery, salmonella or shigella. Viral infections that are transmitted through faeces include  rotavirus and norovirus and on top of that there is food poisoning,” Buthelezi  said .

Ernest Dlamini said: “The employment rate has really affected my family because even my 26- year-old daughter is currently unemployed and being a father I try by all means to feed them.  Sometimes that means I have to put my health at risk of catching diseases. On a good day, if I  collect lots of cans and bottles from the dumping sites, I am able to resell at the recycle  companies. I usually make R80, which I use to buy my wife, three children and grandchildren  food. If I don’t get anything from reselling the cans and bottles, like many hungry families I have  no other option but to collect food which is badly rotten sometimes.”

Municipal worker Collen Ngwenya said: “We have tried so many times to chase these people out  of the dumping site. But they don’t listen and it has even come to the point where they tell us to  provide them with food or give them money so that they will stop coming here. It’s really painful  to see them fight over rotten food because they can catch illness or diseases from this dirty  place.” 

- ANA-Health-e News