Informal settlement dwellers are ‘at highest risk’ for Covid-19

Siphokazi Gontsi and Busisiwe Ntsika from Siqalo Informal Settlement. File Picture: Cindy Waxa/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Siphokazi Gontsi and Busisiwe Ntsika from Siqalo Informal Settlement. File Picture: Cindy Waxa/ African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Mar 17, 2020

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Cape Town - With the current poor health-care systems across the country there are fears that informal settlement dwellers will bear the brunt of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Peoples’ Health Movement SA (PHM) epidemiologist Kathryn Stinson said there was a need for information on the prevention and modes of transmission of Covid-19 in a language that could be understood by people from informal settlements.

She said that most people felt the messages they were getting were contradictory, making it hard to understand how to deal with the virus.

Stinson also said people living in informal settlements had poor access to running water to wash their hands, and that the overcrowded living conditions made transmission of the virus inevitable.

“Churches, taverns and shops are not prepared or preparing their attendees for social distancing and other safety measures to protect the community. Similarly this concern applies to any public meetings and schools. Pupils have no information on how to protect themselves,” she said.

She added that another concern was a lack of transport options where taxis were acknowledged as the core means of transport, and that there was a need for the government to speak to the taxi industry about how to protect its clients.

Gugulethu community health worker Nozibele Mdayi said people in her profession were the most vulnerable as they did not have enough equipment and protection. She said their job carried high risks, and some of them were no longer young.

Mdayi said the precautionary measures of constant hand washing and self isolation were impossible to practise in informal settlements.

“Our government clinics and hospitals are under-resourced and under-staffed and yet are the first contact with the health-care system. They are not coping with chronic illness patients, and this outbreak will further put a strain on them,” she said.

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers said self quarantine was not an option for most South Africans, many of whom lived from day to day and could not stock up on extra supplies.

@Mtuzeli

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