We need to think out of the box

08 January 2018 | Columns

In a matter of two weeks, Hepatitis E numbers have gone from 20 to a new 152 reported cases in Windhoek. Readers will recall that in 2006, the polio outbreak also started small and isolated and it took a matter of weeks before flyers were dropped from air over the capital for people to be vaccinated.

We need to approach this with care. And we need to be very cognizant of the spread of this infection.

It is not as though we were not forewarned… certainly the burgeoning informal settlements around Windhoek, with torrid or utterly absent sanitation, the increasing pollution of the Goreangab Dam, the accompanying pollution of Swakoppoort, were signs that all is not well.

Or are we waiting for the same issues experienced in the Jukskei River that runs through Soweto in Johannesburg?

We do not have enough water in this country and we also know that the growth of Windhoek will eventually have to be limited by the water resources – at least until the agriculture ministry has enough money to put their master plan into action. This will connect all the dams, from Naute and Neckartal in the south through to Von Bach just north of Windhoek.

That however, may take another decade to achieve and until then, we are reliant on a higher power, or good climatic patterns, to survive in the central areas.

Thus, it is fair to ask whether we can really afford to further pollute our water resources with poverty-stricken and desperate citizens flocking to the capital in the hope of eking out a living.

Not that our health system has the money to deal with a fully-fledged Hepatitis E outbreak. There is not even money for basic drugs and medical equipment.

Thinking out of the box would be the solution. We need tax incentives for companies to decentralise and open shop elsewhere – the benefits will be felt by the isolated communities where the youth languish outside shebeens and turn to crime in a bid to eat.

We need to provide sanitation to those who are already living on the fringes of Windhoek, in conditions that can only be described as horrifying.

We need a real plan. And quickly too.

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