Pollution is a ticking time-bomb

05 January 2018 | Health

The ministry of health appears to have on its hands a massive health crisis which was in fact predicted in a 2017 publication about informal settlements and the accompanying lack of hygiene.

In the last two weeks, 152 cases of confirmed and suspected Hepatitis E have been reported in most of the informal settlements and some of the lesser developed parts of Katutura.

Of these 152 cases, one person has died, two were admitted to the Katutura State Hospital and Roman Catholic Private Hospital, while the rest were sent home following treatment.

This was confirmed by acting health permanent secretary Dr Dawid Uirab, who said the situation was under control as health workers and volunteers were raising awareness of the disease and scouting for new infections.

He pointed out that not all the cases were laboratory confirmed.

The symptoms of hepatitis E include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice (discoloration of eyes), dark urine, clay-coloured stools and pain in the joints.

The virus is transmitted via the faecal-oral route, principally via contaminated drinking water, and the disease is most common in areas with limited access to water, sanitation, hygiene and health services.

According to Uirab, the outbreak is concentrated in the Havana informal settlement, followed by the Goreangab, Greenwell Matongo and Ombili informal settlements.

These are the parts of Windhoek that have very poor sanitation as many are still making use of makeshift toilets or shared municipal ablutions and communal taps prone to contamination.

The publication titled 'Informal Settlements in Namibia: Their Nature and Growth' states that water in Windhoek's Goreangab Dam is badly contaminated by domestic and human waste, with much of the pollution coming from surrounding informal settlements.

It further states that it is widely believed that pollution from Windhoek badly contaminated water in the Swakoppoort Dam in 2011 when heavy rain swept large volumes of waste into the dam.

By 2017, the water in the dam remained so contaminated that it could only be used in a diluted state.

As one of Windhoek's major sources of water, Swakoppoort's contamination is an extremely serious problem, especially when other water sources are meagre.

In her foreword to the publication, housing minister Sophia Shaningwa said the publication served as a wake-up call, showing that Namibia was running out of time.

“Many have pointed out correctly that informal settlements have no place in an upper-middle-income country. This research clearly shows that what is needed foremost to redress the situation is the provision of legal land to the urban poor.

“With local authorities leading the way, I strongly encourage banks and the private sector to support such action. Innovative thinking is needed, as well as pragmatic approaches. Ignoring the urgent need for low-cost land demonstrates sightedness and a lack of understanding that we are bound together as a society and a country,” she said.


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