TB becomes part of Uitsig family’s lives

Carol Snyman (32) wipes the tears from her cheeks. “They swear at you, they call you horrible names. It hurts me very much when they speak about us like this. These are my children and I love them.”

Snyman’€™s family is the perfect example of why Tuberculosis is so rampant in this part of the country and even more specifically in Uitsig, a suburb typical of the poorest working class areas of Cape Town.

But ignorance is still a huge factor and some residents think that people who have TB are dirty or drink.

“Stigma is not such a major issue as it used to be, but some people say that if you have TB your house must be dirty or you must be drinking,” says Collette Booysen, Medical Anthropologist at Stellenbosch University.

“We are know this is not the case,” Booysen adds.

Six months pregnant, Snyman has been sharing a one bedroomed council house with her four children and husband Freddy (38) for the past six years. Another sibling, Manda (6) lives with her aunt.

A proud and loving mother, Snyman and her family live in the ramshackle council house which they struggle to afford.

The youngest sibling Fredaline (3) only recently recovered from a severe bout of meningitis TB. Before that the grandmother Snyman’€™s eldest daughter, Gail (10) were treated for TB.

Freddy was diagnosed with TB days after Fredaline.

Pausing as a boeing drones overhead on its final descent to Cape Town International Airport, Snyman speaks of the hardships she has endured all her life.

Brought up by an uncle living in Uitsig until she was 10 years old, Snyman later moved back to her parents and left school when she was 15 years old.

“I had to leave. I had to help mom and dad, we needed the money to survive,” says Snyman who worked for four years in a clothing factory.

When she was 19 years old she gave birth to Jonathan, who later passed away after suffering a severe epileptic fit.

“I stopped working when I met Freddy and we lived in a shack in someone’€™s backyard. I had to walk to the council every day to plead for a house. We waited very long and I think we only got it because the social worker wrote a letter saying Jonathan’€™s condition should be brought into the equation when considering our application.”

The house Snyman refers to is a tiny. One enters into a tiny “living room” with a single bed which Snyman and her husband share at night. The kitchen is separated from the lounge with a makeshift room divider.

The bedroom has a double bed which is shared by Fredaline, Gail, Franklyn (4) and Leon (8).

In a good week, Freddy, who works as a casual labourer at a panelbeater, brings home R400.

With this the family need to pay R350 per month towards the rent, R75 rates and about R70 water per month. Their electricity consumption varies. They are behind on their rates and water payments.

“If Freddy is sick he loses his job or he doesn’€™t get paid,” says Snyman.

“Sometimes it’€™s a case of do we buy food today or water,” says Snyman. In the past six years council has cut their water on three occasions.

The children eat bread in the morning before school and Snyman tries to cook a balanced meal for lunch. “I can’€™t take a job, I have to look after my children. If I put them in a day school it would cost me more,” she explains.

Snyman is adamant that she will continue to be open about TB despite the comments from her community. Ironically, it is a community where TB is rife.

“We struggle a lot. I want a better life for my children. I would like a better house. I can’€™t give them what I would like to give them, but I will always meet my parental responsibilities. It is difficult when you can’€™t pay their school fees or buy their books. I had a tough life and I don’€™t wish the same for my children.” ‘€“ Health-e News Service

UITSIG                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The Cape Town suburb of Uitsig is typical of the poorest working class areas of Cape Town.

According to University of Cape Town professor Judith Head, who included case studies from Uitsig in her master thesis, 40 percent of the population is below the age of 20 years and only 4,5% is over 65 years of age.

A third of the population between 15 and 64 years of age is unemployed. Most of those who have jobs, work in light industry, either on a permanent or casual basis. Seventy five percent of those in employment are unskilled workers. Only 29 people in Uitsig’€™s population of 12 188 have completed undergraduate of post-graduate education.

Thirty percent of households have an annual income of less than R12 000 and 4% have no income at all. Thirty four percent of households are headed by women. (Statistics SA)

Many people live in sub-economic houses rented from the Municipality. Typically, these semi-detached single-storey houses have a living room that is entered directly from the street and a tiny kitchen that leads off it. Some had an additional small bedroom while a few dwellings have two bedrooms.

Most have no bathrooms and no heating and the kitchens have a single cold water tap.

Lavatories are generally in the yard and often shared with other families. Those homes that do have ceilings have usually been installed by the occupants. If not, the rooms open directly onto the asbestos or corrugated iron sheets that constitute the roof.

Most houses have shacks in the backyard where people also live.

According to Statistics SA (1999), 40% of households in Uitsig live in two rooms or less. Head reports in her thesis that in 1997 the mean household size was 8,7 people (with a range of 2 to 18 years).

Most of the streets in Uitsig are unpaved, there are few shops and even fewer parks, playing fields or green open spaces.

 

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    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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