By Gerda Potgieter
Doctors For Life International (DFL) stepped in last weekend to provide emergency healthcare to flood victims in Nhlungwane Extension, in KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal.
More than 57 families, including 23 children have been displaced in the remote Nhlungwane area and are being accommodated in the local community hall. Not far from there more than 40 other families are living crammed together in a tent. The crowded conditions raise the risk of the breakout and rapid spread of diseases.
With local clinics closed and out of stock as a result of the flood crisis, the DFL team provided healthcare to patients with chronic conditions, said DFL vice president Dr Tselisa Nkuebe.
“I started to see children with diarrhoea and coughs resulting from the flooding at one of the previous points where we also provided healthcare to patients affected by the floods,” he said.
“You can almost predict this, as diarrhoea is a common condition after floods. Another concern I have is the outbreak of measles as I already saw some children with measles. It is a great concern, because you cannot separate the child from the mother — they have nowhere to go. They are all in one big space, with only a mattress that separates them from each other.
“The best you can do is to advise the mother about separating the child from other children, or you can refer her to a clinic to make sure that the child’s vaccinated is up to date. It can become very serious if the child is not vaccinated. What you now see is lots of rashes on children. The medical risks remain, and there are serious problems with water”.
Sakile Dlamini from the Kwamashu Christian Centre, helps to care for community members who have lost houses in the flooding. After assisting the DFL team during their weekend outreach, he said: “Many of the families here cannot find family members and the rescue teams are looking for them. During daytime they go and look for their clothes and belongings. Some did receive blankets and some food but water is now the big problem.
“The DFL team stepped in to help take care of the sick and needy and this is a huge help. They helped us in the past also where help was needed. DFL closes the gap for communities that does not have proper access to primary health care.
“Everybody in the area is now affected by water issues but the situation is worse for the families in the community hall and also in the tent in the area where over 40 families are hosted. They have no safe water to drink. aQuellé [a bottling company] now plays a vital role to help these people by giving them water. It helps a lot because the aQuellé water is purified and minimises the threat of diarrhoea. Children are more vulnerable to diseases and aQuellé’s water helps a lot. But more is needed.”
The situation in Nhlungwane is similar to that in many townships and informal settlements in the region which were crippled as a result of floods which started before the Easter weekend, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their aftermath.
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