My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
In two weeks time South Africans will celebrate Freedom Day – a day which commemorates seventeen years since we queued patiently to vote in our country’s first democratic elections. Much has changed for the better over this time, but many of our poorest citizens continue to wait for the delivery of basic services to reinforce the rights guaranteed in our Constitution to safety, health, life and dignity (amongst others). The most basic of these services and rights is access to clean and safe sanitation services. During the month of April, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) will be holding two mass-protests aimed at illustrating our commitment to holding government accountable for ensuring that the most basic of human rights are guaranteed.
10.5 million people across South Africa and 500 000 people in the City of Cape Town do not have access to basic sanitation. Where toilets and water sources do exist, they are often unhygienic places of danger. The provision of sanitation services is a local government function widely held to be one of is most important. The SJC – as a Khayelitsha based social movement – will call on the City of Cape Town to commit to improving the state of existing sanitation services, and consult widely on improving the roll-out of basic sanitation services in the future. For every day that the City refuses to acknowledge these challenges and commit to addressing them, residents will live in fear and suffer an abundance of hardships conducting the most simple of bodily functions.
A lack of adequate sanitation directly impacts on personal safety.
For people living in Khayelitsha and other informal settlements, vulnerability to crime is at its highest when trying to use a toilet. On an almost daily basis people of all ages and both sexes are robbed, assaulted, raped and murdered whilst walking to the nearest functioning toilet (or empty clearing, in many cases) or water source. Households that have been left empty are often burgled whilst residents go to the toilet. Women, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable and easy targets for criminals whilst using a sanitation facility.
A lack of adequate sanitation directly impacts on health.
The poor state of toilets and water services in many informal settlements results in a very high prevalence of waterborne diseases, parasites and gastroenteritis of infectious origin – including Hepatitis A and Rotavirus. The latter is one of the leading causes of death for children under five. Although the Metro District Health Services have made a concerted effort to address the high incidence of diarrhoeal disease, vulnerable areas that lack decent water, sanitation and refuse removal continue to experience the greatest burden. Khayelitsha continues to report high levels of diarrhoea in the peak season, despite a strong health promotion, prevention and treatment campaign. Advice on basic food and personal hygiene becomes impossible to follow if the environment is unfavourable.
Why Are We Queuing?
On 16 and 27 April, SJC members and partners will form queues outside the offices of local government leaders, where we will patiently and peacefully wait to use a toilet. This will serve to illustrate that many South Africans are still waiting for clean and safe sanitation services – basic services guaranteed to all citizens including those living in informal settlements. It will also serve to illustrate that while many queued to vote in 1994, democratic participation and active citizenship must be a consistent struggle. We will hand over a petition and memorandum addressed to the Mayor which demands:
1. An implementation plan for adequate maintenance, monitoring, and coordination of existing sanitation services in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements. The City must ensure that existing toilets and water sources are clean and safe!
2. A commitment, public consultation, implementation plan and budget to ensure that every household in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements has access to a basic sanitation, and access to water within an agreed upon timeframe, following consultation. We must develop a model in Khayelitsha that can be replicated across Cape Town, and the Country. Local Government must have an appropriate plan for the future delivery of sanitation services!
Join the Queues For Clean & Safe Sanitation!
Demand Clean & Safe Sanitation from Khayelitsha Councilors!
12h00, Saturday 16th April 2011, Nonkqubela Mall, Site B, Khayelitsha
Demand Clean & Safe Sanitation from the Mayor of Cape Town!
12h00, Wednesday 27th April 2011, St. Georges Cathedral, Cape Town
Interfaith Service Followed by march down Adderley Street to Form Queue outside Mayor’s office at Civic CentreBACK TO TOP