Informal settlements a breeding ground for viruses

A workshop with 80 peoplet Where Rainbows Meet.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has the world in a panic as the number of infections skyrocketed and spreads to more countries, has placed the spotlight on informal settlements where people are living in compact structures.

Community leader Mymoena Scholtz of Vrygrond, founder of Where Rainbows Meet, fears that if the virus really hits the informal settlements “we are in for a national disaster.”

Where Rainbows Meet serves mothers, seniors and children in Vrygrond, Capricorn and surrounds, and Ms Scholtz said informal settlements is a breeding ground for viruses as there are many “negative” circumstances in these areas. “We have a bad sewerage system, unhygienic toilet facilities, poverty and malnutrition.”

Ms Scholtz said the health sector “must” come forward.

“What we see here is reality. And coronavirus affects all of us. So, it is very sad that we must say to the kids that we will not have a holiday programme and that we are not doing projects. It is a bit challenging for us not allowing the community to come in.”

However, she said, they had an informative workshop at Where Rainbows Meet with 80 people after an old woman came to knock on their door to find out what the virus is all about.

“We are trying to protect ourselves, but we cannot stop working. And who is going to educate our community? Not everybody is listening to the news, or have access to social media. So, we have to go door to door to inform them.”

She said they had planned to visit the community on Monday March 23.

When asked what would happen if there were an outbreak in the informal settlements, she said: “Retreat day hospital will not be sufficient to contain this coronavirus. We are in for a national disaster if this should ever hit our informal settlements.

“The health sector is not really coming to the table and not even really communicating with organisations to find out what the needs of the communities are and how they can be of a bigger support to us as organisations. And that to me is very sad – that our country does not give a damn.”

Natalie Watlington, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health’s southern western sub-structures, said: “If someone who lives in an informal settlement tests positive for Covid-19 and cannot isolate themselves at home, we will provide them with an alternative location for isolation.”

Asked if there were preventative measures in place she said: “We continue to partner with our NGOs, municipal counterparts, and other stakeholders to keep all our communities informed about Covid-19 and what they can do to stop the spread. We are also limiting the number of people in all our facilities to reduce the risk of the possible spread of Covid-19, as well as restrict visiting hours at our hospitals. We ask the public to help us to stop the spread by only going to a clinic or hospital if very sick, by covering their face when using a train or taxi, washing their hands often with soap and clean water, washing all surfaces often with a bleach and water solution, and by avoiding touching their face. Do not touch other people – no hugging, handshaking, or kissing. Avoid crowds and gatherings.”

People must stay home if they have flu symptoms and call the provincial hotline on 021 928 4102 or the national hotline on 0800 029 999.