With Day Zero in Cape Town still being a reality even though it has been pushed to July, people are starting to panic about health and hygiene.
This will not only affect the economy, education, businesses and social life but it will also consequently affect the health of Capetonians.
The annual ‘diarrhoea season’, and an increase in other serious diseases like typhoid (spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person), diphtheria (bacteria live in the mouth, throat, and nose of an infected person and can be passed to others by coughing or sneezing) and measles.
JP Smith, a mayoral committee member for safety and security and for social services, said: “All these diseases present a significant and costly challenge to the city. Not only are staff and resources under pressure, but the outbreak of any disease also puts lives and livelihoods at risk.”
Despite spreading of diseases, there is the possibility of stress levels spiking and people in queues becoming violent as they try and access water, as we have seen in a video of a man arguing with security at a Newlands Springs.
There are many scenarios the people in Cape Town should prepare to face. The inability to flush toilets may lead to a breakdown in sanitation. People may be unable to dispose of faecal waste easily and may resort to disposing of their faeces outside. Many viral, bacterial and protozoal diseases are spread in the faeces and the risk of environmental contamination will significantly increase. Infectious diseases that cause diarrhoea, vomiting or dysentery, such as enteroviruses, salmonella, shigella, or E Coli, will be more likely.
While Smith said the disease outbreaks were not related to the drought, “the city needed to ensure that health and hygiene standards were retained”.
Recently, the City has faced a number of disease outbreaks such as diphtheria and typhoid – it is important to present early to health facilities if an infectious disease is suspected, especially in children.
The absence of water in taps, wash basins and showers may lead to a loss of hygiene which can bring on skin infections like scabies, and viruses that cause coughs, colds, ‘flu-like illnesses, bronchitis and pneumonia, you are also more vulnerable to dehydration and heat stroke. A lack of hand hygiene and water to clean food may also lead to an increase in food-borne diarrheal diseases, making children particularly vulnerable.
People may be tempted to drink contaminated or non-potable water if they cannot afford to buy water or cannot easily access points of distribution.
It was stated, various bodies in the City of Cape Town are working together to respond appropriately. The city is working with the police and the National Defence Force to ensure that order is maintained when day zero arrives.
With Day Zero pushed to 9 July, residents are still encouraged to save water and to only use 50l per day.