Cholera Outbreak in Eastern Cape: Briefing by Municipalities

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

31 March 2003
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Meeting report

HEALTH , PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, WATER AFFAIRS & FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEES: JOINT MEETING
1 April 2003
CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN EASTERN CAPE: BRIEFING BY MUNICIPALITIES

Joint Chairpersons:
Mr L Ngculu (ANC), Mr Y Carrim (ANC) and Mr J Van Wyk (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Eastern Cape: Cholera Outbreak
Ukhahlamba Cholera Strategic Plan for 2003 for Elundini Sub-Health District
Alfred Nzo District Municipality Water and Sanitation Report


Document provided as a follow-up to this meeting:
Alfred Nzo District Municipality Powerpoint presentation

Ukhahlamba Delegation: Rev M Petersen, Municipal Manager
Alfred Nzo Delegation: Mr M Sogoni, Executive Manager; Mr G Mpumza, Municipal Manager
Department of Water Affairs & Forestry Delegation: Ms P Makhanya, Water Service; Mr A Lucas, Water Quality

SUMMARY
The Ukhahlamba District Municipality presented its cholera action plan - this is a preventative measure as it is not experiencing a cholera outbreak but does have high-risk areas within its jurisdiction. The Alfred Nzo District Municipality presented a briefing on the recent cholera outbreak and the sanitation problems facing it. The Portfolio Committees on Health, Local Government and Water Affairs attended the briefing as they all have jurisdiction on this matter. They advised the Alfred Nzo District Municipality to develop an action plan.

MINUTES
Mr Ngculu (Health Chair) explained that Mr G Doidge (ANC), the Chair of the Chairpersons Committee, had initiated this briefing as he felt it necessary for Parliament to understand the cause of cholera outbreak in the Eastern Cape. He noted that the representatives from the OR Tambo Municipal District would not be able to attend the meeting. The Mayor of Ukhahlamba District Municipality would not present as he had been involved in a car accident on the way to the Cape Town

Ukhahlamba's Cholera Strategic Plan for 2003
Rev M Petersen, Ukhahlamba Municipal Manager, pointed out that although Ukhahlamba District Municipality had not had any reported cases of cholera outbreak, as there are local municipalities which have been identified as high risks areas, they felt it necessary to embark on an awareness campaign. An action plan has been developed for Elundini and Senqu local municipalities, which have both been identified as high-risk areas. This action plan has since been developed by different sub-health districts and thereafter consolidated into a provincial plan for the Eastern Cape. As the result of this plan, there would be proper co-ordination amongst the different stakeholders in dealing with cholera outbreak.

The plan is divided into three phases namely the Prevention and Promotion Phase I, Treatment Phase II and Demobilisation Phase III. The district municipality is focusing mostly on the first phase, as there are no cases of cholera outbreak. The Provincial Sanitation Task Team has developed a strategic framework to address the problems of sanitation in the area. The District Municipality has established Outbreak Response Teams, which monitors water sources monthly to check quality and whether they are safe for human use.  They ensure that cholera swabs are taken from sewerage works yearly and the rivers are tested for the cholera bacteria quarterly.

Discussion
Mr Carrim (Provincial & Local Chair) assured the District Municipality that they should take the questions asked by the Members in the spirit of trying to find a solution and not being put on an inquisitorial trial.

Nkosi M Nonkonyana (ANC) asked how many of the 48 water projects that the District Municipality has developed, are based in rural areas.

Rev Petersen replied that he is not able to provide the Committees with the exact number of rural or urban water projects at the moment but he would submit this at a latter stage. However, he noted that most of the projects are based in rural areas since the District Municipality is in a rural area.

Adv B Komphela (ANC) asked what role the other stakeholders are playing in the education campaign undertaken by the District Municipality.

Rev Petersen replied that civil society organisations and traditional leaders are part of the Outbreak Response Teams, however the lack of involvement of the other spheres of government is a matter of concern. Nonetheless, notwithstanding such non-commitment, the municipality is in the process of strengthening intergovernmental cooperation so that the issue of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) can be carefully considered.

In replying to Mr B Solo (ANC) asking about preventative measures, Rev Petersen said that their Outbreak Response Teams are involved in teaching people to purify water before drinking it and also they are implementing the various programmes in the action plan.

Alfred Nzo District Municipality Water and Sanitation Report
Mr Sogoni, Executive Manager, and Mr Mpumza, Municipal Manager, noted that the Alfred Nzo District Municipality covers an area of 7784 km2 with 300 villages under its management. Out of a population of about 554 107 people, 64.2% are in need of basic water services while 99% are in need of basic sanitation services. The municipality anticipates that at the end of June 2006 about 54.7% people would still be in need of basic water services while 84.6% would still be in need of basic sanitation services. This would largely be due to the problems created by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry as it had decided to cut the municipal budget of R3 million to R1.1 million. This action has seriously hindered the working for water programme and the implementation of bloc toilets as against the zinc toilets.

Discussion
Mr Carrim noted that the Committees would look at these matters raised by the presenters and see how it could be of assistance. It would also be important to approach the relevant departments to find out from them what are they doing with regard to disaster management, especially the disaster management units of the DPLG.

Mr B Nobunga (ANC) said that it would be inappropriate for the Committees to intervene without having invited the relevant departments to make a submission on the matter. He asked what plan the municipality has developed in order to ensure a long-term prevention of this outbreak.

Nkosi Nonkonyana echoed this query as such plan would be useful in helping the Committee in identifying its role in assisting this municipality, noting that the majority of its population is without access to water and sanitation services.

Mr Sogoni said that although the IDP's allocation has been find wanting, there are schemes in place, which have been identified by the DWAF, such as the water scheme. These schemes would be important in this process of combating this epidemic. However the municipality is not prepared to inherit schemes that would later cause problems for it.

Dr I Cachalia (ANC) said that it would be important if these prevention processes could be done in collaboration with the Department of Education.

Adv Komphela noted that it is important that the money allocated for a particular programme should follow those programme through to the end since it is not acceptable to burden the municipalities with health issues without allocating funds for those programmes.

Ms Makhanya (DWAF) replied that the reason why the department cut off the District Municipality budget was not due to any ulterior motives on its part or whatever but as the result of the department's business plan which was already in place and needed to be carried out.

Mr Mpumza, Municipal Manager, said that the municipality has no problem with its budget being cut and the money allocated to other areas but they feel water and sanitation should receive priority, as they remain major problems.

Mr Lucas (DWAF) noted that although it is very degrading for people to share water with animals, it should be noted that animals do not spread cholera but humans do as the result of human hands contaminating the water.

An ANC member said that it is therefore important for communities to be educated about certain things that they regard as tradition. The example of washing hands in the same basin after attending a funeral ceremony was given as this could have the impact of causing cholera. Rev A Goosen (ANC) agreed.

Mr Carrim noted that the cause for cholera is known but what they want to establish is the reason behind its outbreak in these areas and the lessons that have been leant in the process. Therefore it would be important for the government departments to tell the Committees what they have done to combat this epidemic and how could it be prevented from spreading.

Mr Sogoni suggested that the Committees set up a joint co-ordinating committee, which would consist of all the governments departments involved in this matter.

Mr B Solo (ANC) acknowledged that it is important for the DPLG and DWAF to form working relations since water for rural areas is still a very important issue. The three committees should also identify members who would form part of the subcommittees dealing with cholera outbreak.

Mr Van Wyk (Water & Forestry Chair) said that the Committees have noted the lack of cooperation amongst government departments and this would be addressed. The DWAF would be given an opportunity to respond in writing to all the issues raised by the District Municipality.

Mr Ngculu (Health Chair) said that what he noted from the District Municipal's presentation is the lack of strategic planning to prevent this cholera outbreak. Without an integrated approach it would be difficult to defeat this epidemic.

Mr Carrim said that the three committees should continue to hold joint meetings on matters of the same interest and where necessary, the departments should also be invited. These departments should submit reports on what they are doing to combat cholera.

Mr Van Wyk thanked the delegations for their presentations and the meeting was adjourned.

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