Baby from Cape Town’s worst squatter camp treated for cholera

20 12 2008

Published 17 hours ago, by Adriana Stuijt

In only the second-ever reported cholera case in the Western Cape province, a Cape Town hospital confirmed that a four-month-old baby from the swampy Wallacedene squatter camp near Kraaifontein was treated for cholera — but is recovering.

The unnamed baby boy was admitted to the Karl Bremer Hospital in the suburb of Parow near his shack in the infamous Wallacedene squatter camp. He is now reportedly out of danger. For an idea of what it’s like to actually live with one’s family in one of those squatter camps of Cape Town, see the video. Much of greater Cape Town is not really suitable for habitation but people have settled there to be near jobs in the northern industrial areas – creating miserable conditions for themselves. Also see: SA’s ticking time bomb: water pollution…
Hospital spokeswoman Faiza Steyn said the diagnosis of cholera was confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Neither the child nor his family had any history of recent travel to Zimbabwe and/or known close contacts with a cholera case. He is a South African-born child with South African parents. “It is not known at this stage where he could have got the disease from, but hot weather and poor environmental living conditions could be some of the factors,” she said.

Only one cholera case has ever been identified in the Western Cape region before– in 2001, as reported in the 2003 health department’s annual report.

Wallacedene is part of the long string of squatter camps north of Cape Town, which also includes Joe Slovo ‘informal housing’ camp – all are unhealthy, rat-infested slums which are very dangerous conditions especially for small children. In August this year a local housing-rights activist, Mrs Irene Grootboom of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign died in miserable conditions in her shanty in Wallacedene, still waiting for a new home which under a groundbreaking Constitutional court order bearing her name, had ordered the ANC-government to provide decent housing and water-reticulation services.

Johan Louw, Western Cape anti-eviction campaigner
Irene Grootboom, a housing activist of Wallacedene, died in the water-logged shack she had lived in all her life in August. She was buried like a local heroine: the Constitutional Court order bearing her name orders the SA government to build decent housing and water-reticulation services for all poor SA residents like her.

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Mrs Grootboom was buried by 500 local mourners as their local heroine. She had a street named after her and some houses are now being built but the pace is slow and there are many forced evictions. She spent most of her life trying to get better living conditions for fellow-residents.

Eight years ago, Irene Grootboom brought her community’s plight to the attention of the Court, calling attention to the appalling conditions faced by the adults and children living in her community. In a landmark decision — which was officially opposed by the ruling local ANC-party officials — the court ordered the State to provide adequate housing and water-reticulation facilities facilities – stating that these facilities were their basic human rights under the SA constitution.

Mrs Grootboom died in her dismal, water-logged shack — she had fallen increasingly ill while still waiting for the SA government to do what the high court had declared to be the community’s constitutional right – to build her a dry home and clean water. And now a baby has contracted cholera living in Wallacedene squatter camp. This is a warning signal for worst things to come…

While cholera is endemic in South Africa since the 1970s — in 2001 for instance, 106,000 cases were treated and 40 people died of cholera countrywide — most cases are diagnosed in KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, with the latest border-crossing outbreak in the northerly Limpopo province with Zimbabwe being the worst since 1994 because of the unusually high death rates.

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